The Scottish Government have confirmed they will “enhance” flights from Barra and Glasgow during the summer but say they have no further plans to change the number of flights the rest of the year.
This comes following a letter sent by Leader of the Comhairle Angus Campbell to Transport Minister Keith Brown asking the Government to increase the number of flights through the Government’s Public Services Obligation.
In the letter Cllr Campbell explained that one of the factors behind the Comhairle’s decision to discontinue subsidising the Barra/Benbecula air service was because of the “wish of the communities of both Barra and South Uist for the enhancement of the air service connection between Barra and Glasgow.”
He added: “The removal of the Barra/Benbecula services affords, we believe, the opportunity for a twice daily service between Barra and Glasgow, within the constraints of Barra Airport.”
However the move has been strongly criticised by Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil, who is campaigning against the recent budget decision taken by the Comhairle to discontinue the Barra/Benbecula service and reduce the Stornoway/Benbecula service. Mr MacNeil said the Comhairle were “pulling a fast one” and described it as a “smoke screen.”
A Scottish Government spokesman explained: “The Scottish Government remains committed to not only maintaining the Glasgow to Barra air service but enhancing the upcoming contract by ensuring the extra summer air services that have been provided on a commercial basis in recent years, are included in the service specification.”
He added: “We have no other plans at present to amend the service specification.”
Commenting on Cllr Campbell’s appeal to the Scottish Government MSP Cllr Donald Manford said: “There are currently - and have been for a number of years - two and occasionally three flights per day between Glasgow/Barra where seating capacity requires it, and a seven day service for summer months.”
He continued: “I welcome that the council have become aware of this and delighted they feel able to support our efforts to have the service further enhanced.
“I do not accept that they require to discontinue the service to Benbecula and Stornoway to achieve this indeed I look forward to hearing their case to national government for increasing transport budgets and priorities when this local government has relegated it to the lowest 2% in order of priority.”