Western Isles MP Angus McNeil has slammed reports that the air ambulance helicopter has been unable serve Barra at night on four occasions.
Mr McNeil has written to both the Scottish Ambulance Service and Bond Air Services regarding the issue which he describes as ‘alarming’ after claiming he knows personally of four incidents in the past six months alone.
He said: “It is a matter of some alarm that has come to my attention in the last few days, that on no fewer than four occasions in the last six months, the air ambulance helicopter has been unable to come into Barra at night due to pilots, it has been alleged to me, not being certified to service the island in the hours of darkness.
“Quite what this would be is unclear. But if this is the case, we need to understand why this certification is not in place and ensure remedial action is taken as a matter of priority so that the air ambulance cover for Barra, and perhaps other Scottish islands, is 24/7 as would be expected.
“Whether this would have affected the four previous cases will be of concern to relatives and friends, but the crux of the matter is that an air ambulance service should be able, weather permitting, to access islands at all times of the day and night.
“We cannot have a situation where we have a fifth such event. If an air ambulance is required, by its very nature it is emergency transportation and avoidable delays are totally unacceptable.”
The Scottish Ambulance Service admitted: “We are aware of the situation and have made it very clear to Bond that this situation needs to be rectified as a matter of the highest priority.
“In the meantime, if for any reason our air ambulance cannot respond to an emergency incident, MOD or Coastguard aircraft are tasked, which is in line with normal contingencies and ensures that emergency cover is maintained.”
A spokesperson for Bond said: “To ensure the safety of all passengers, pilots and paramedics, Bond requires all pilots to complete a programme of familiarisation with this specific site before operating from it in the hours of darkness.
“Currently eight pilots based in Glasgow have been trained on this site. Two are still to receive the full process of familiarisation required. The Scottish Ambulance Service is aware of this and we are working to ensure this is resolved as soon as possible.”