Air service reprieve welcomed

THE decision to reprieve the Barra to Benbecula air service has been welcomed by SNP politicians.

The Comhairle agreed yesterday to continue the service despite it being identified as a potential saving.

SNP members of the Comhairle released a statement stating they were pleased with the move.

They commented: ”The SNP group is pleased that opposing Members eventually recognised the folly of removing any “lifeline” without at least a decent period of time to review the impact it would have on these islands and those using the service.”

They continue: “The SNP group does not however agree with the Policy and Resources Committee decision that the Comhairle now undertake a review of its PSO services. The view of the SNP group on this issue as expressed by Donald Manford is “this leaves all our “lifeline” routes, particularly our ferry routes, vulnerable to direct attack”.

Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan also welcomed the council’s decision to retain the five day air service.

He said: “I am glad that the Comhairle have reconsidered their transport committee’s initial position, and have now decided to continue their valuable support for this lifeline air service.

“These flights are appreciated in Barra, not least by many hospital patients. I am pleased to see a deal now being reached between the Comhairle and Loganair on this matter.”

Isles MP Angus MacNeil added: “I congratulate Councillors Donald Manford and Gerry Macleod on their efforts.  Per capita this service was always a well used service – people need it to go to hospital in Stornoway, we want that to continue such a change would have made hospital in Glasgow the only real option.  It will also be welcomed by those  travelling to work at sea when other options are full as they often are.”

He continued: “Transportation has been important to the SNP in the islands.  After we got Alasdair Allan elected and an SNP government we got the RET we had long argued for removing the Air Service would have been counter to the importance of transportation argument.   It also keeps the islands more together especially given we have protected the constituency at Westminster in the AV and Referendums Bill this week.  I was heartened by the support from a number of  people in Lewis for the continuation of this service when in general conversation although it did not directly impact on the Lewis community, it did show an  island togetherness.  The loss of the daily Barra to Benbecula flight would have been devastating for many on Barra.

“The Comhairle are to be commended for finding the funding to keep the service going.”