22nd September 2023
Dr Liz Cameron CBE, Chief Executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce calls for extension of the Wick-Aberdeen PSO, during keynote address during the 49th Caithness Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner.
In the speech to Caithness Chamber of Commerce members and the North Highland business community, Dr Liz Cameron CBE, called for:
- An extension of the Wick-Aberdeen Public Service Obligation (PSO) to provide certainty of connectivity for businesses and residents of the North Highlands.
- The business community, public sector, and others, to get round the table to agree on a minimum of 10 years support to develop and build up this commercial asset for the long-term.
- Government to ensure that equality and fairness are enshrined in major policy areas such as connectivity, energy, and housing, recognising the North Highlands as a major powerhouse of Scotland’s economy.
Dr Liz Cameron CBE, Chief Executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce at the 49th Caithness Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner
Commenting, Dr Liz Cameron CBE, said:
“In my visit to Caithness and the North Highlands, l was inspired by the creativity and resilience of local businesses who have consistently felt isolated in more ways than one in recent years. Threats to connectivity, housing shortages, failure to make full use of its vast economic potential, are all concerns voiced by businesses in the region.
“It is clear that these businesses deserve leadership and partnership which ensures that the diverse economy, and future of their communities continue to attract, retain and build on fantastic enterprises and investment. We call upon the key players to get around the table and make it happen. This part of the world is ready to be a central powerhouse for many future industries, but it needs action taken now to ensure that it won’t be left behind with no repeat of the mistakes of the past.”
The lifeline air service between Wick John O’Groats and Aberdeen airports is operated under a Public Service Obligation (PSO) between The Highland Council and Eastern Airways. The return of scheduled air services culminated on April 11 2022, with the first flight to Aberdeen leaving Wick Airport since March 2020.
Caithness Chamber of Commerce, with funding from Dounreay, developed the original business case for the PSO from Wick John O’Groats Airport, and alongside key stakeholders has continued to play a pivotal role in the partnership efforts to safeguard, develop and grow the service.
Grave concerns have been raised following indication from Transport Scotland to stakeholders that commitment made for the final year of financial support for the service, until April 2026, will now need to be re-justified beyond the previously agreed stipulation of increase in passenger numbers.
Providing access to vital business, leisure and healthcare opportunities, the service is predicted to carry over 11,000 passengers during the 2023/24 funding period, forecasting a forecasting a rise of between 20 and 25% on 2022/23 figures.
Dr Liz Cameron CBE, Chief Executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce with Drew Murray of Far North Aviation at Wick Airport.
Trudy Morris, Chief Executive of Caithness Chamber of Commerce, said:
“Air connectivity is vital to businesses and communities across the North Highlands and it remains clear that this is an essential component in the overall transport connectivity to and from the region.
Connectivity is a major factor in securing economic growth, attracting new opportunities, employment and sustaining flourishing communities for our region, and indeed imperative for retaining our future generations.
Our region is one of the most diverse economies in Scotland and we deserve both the equity and the stability to be able to maximise and build upon the opportunities presented to us. Air connectivity is crucial to this, the PSO must reflect confidence in the long-term vision of our region.”
During her visit to Caithness, Dr Liz Cameron CBE met with Drew Murray of Far North Aviation, which has provided aircraft handling services at Wick John O’Groats Airport since 1991 including refuelling for the significant levels of ferry flights which layover at the airport.
Liz also spent time with joint managing directors Gavin and Scott Bremner of Ashley Ann at the state-of-the-art kitchen manufacturing facility and trade showroom in Wick. A major local employer with an overall workforce of over 200 staff, Ashley Ann’s bespoke designer kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms are exported across the UK through its nine retail showrooms, independent and kitchen retailers and directly to property developers and house builders.
Dr Liz Cameron CBE, Chief Executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce with joint managing directors Gavin and Scott Bremner of Ashley Ann, at the new trade showroom in Wick.