7th March 2024

Just as the first signs of spring and the promise of lighter, longer days have lifted spirits across the county. Here at the Chamber too, a sense of relief has swept in with confirmation from Transport Scotland for the continuation of funding for the life-line Wick-Aberdeen Public Service Obligation (PSO) for 2024/25.

At Caithness Chamber of Commerce, we are at the frontline of economic advocacy and the extensive lobbying efforts surrounding the PSO, spearheaded by the Chamber, highlight our unwavering commitment to safeguarding the interests of our businesses and communities. From the development of the original business case for the PSO to our ongoing dialogue and campaigning, the Chamber alongside stakeholders, has played a pivotal role in safeguarding, developing, and growing our vital air services.

Commerce and connectivity are intrinsically linked. Connectivity is not just about roads, railways and runways; it’s the heartbeat of our economy and an essential component in building sustainable and resilient communities. Transportation, including our lifeline air service, physically connects businesses and communities to vital markets, essential healthcare, and travel needs. At its core, connectivity is fundamental to both the economic and social sustainability of the Noth Highlands.

There are huge opportunities ahead for our region with high-value, future-facing jobs including offshore wind, the Sutherland Spaceport, hydrogen production, net zero transport projects and a Flow Country UNESCO World Heritage Site bid. Ensuring that businesses, investors, and communities have access to the robust transport infrastructure and connectivity they need will be crucial in unlocking not only these new opportunities, but also vital in addressing the challenges posed by an ageing and declining population and, ultimately in attracting young people and families to call the North Highlands home.

This welcome announcement from Transport Scotland comes at a time of unprecedented fiscal challenges for the Scottish Government. However, in a region as diverse as ours, leading the way in Scotland’s transition to renewable energy, the importance of transport connectivity cannot be overstated. If we are to hold the weight of our Nation’s race towards net zero, it is only fair that our region is supported to break down barriers associated with rurality.

As a country Scotland holds sustainable and inclusive growth in high regard. Maintaining connectivity for rural communities, both locally to urban centres and globally to markets and opportunities, is fundamental to this ethos. Rather than diverting our attention to justifying our position repeatedly, we should channel our efforts into progress and improvement. The North Highlands deserves both the equity and the stability to fully leverage the opportunities before us and support our rural economies to thrive. While we celebrate the positive decision supporting our PSO, we must remain forward-thinking and steadfast in our vision for the future.


Business Insight, Magnus Davidson, Socio Economics Manager, NRS Dounreay

As an anchor institution of the Caithness and north Sutherland economy, NRS Dounreay welcomes the confirmation of 2024-2025 Transport Scotland funding for the Wick-Aberdeen PSO.

As a partner in Focus North, and working alongside key stakeholders including the Caithness Chamber of Commerce and the Highland Council, we strongly support the case for funding of the vital air route, both for businesses like our own and as a lifeline service for the local population, many of whom are NRS Dounreay employees and family.

The NDA’s duty under The Energy Act (2004) to benefit the social or economic life of communities near to site enables NRS Dounreay to support initiatives such as those improving transport in the area. Regarding flights from Wick, Dounreay helps to support the Caithness Transport Forum, the position of PSO Project Officer whose role is to grow passenger numbers, as well as utilising the route for business travel for both our workforce and supply chain.

Caithness and north Sutherland are undergoing social challenges largely driven by the changing demographics of an ageing, outwardly migrating youth, and decreasing population.

However, the area is on the cusp of burgeoning economic opportunity with increasing offshore wind capacity, space related activity, grid infrastructure upgrades, increasing carbon sequestration projects, as well as ongoing decommissioning work at NRS Dounreay creating a demand on skills which will see an increase in movement of people into the area.

Strong transport links are fundamental in ensuring social sustainability whilst the impact of a changing economy starts to be felt. Strong links are also vital to ensure that we can derive maximum benefit locally from the economic advantages our area increasingly affords us.

Dounreay undertakes a broad portfolio of socio economic activity highlighted in our recently published 2022/23 socio economic report. Transport has been a core element of this work to date, and as we look to support a growing population and economy with Focus North, it will become ever more important.


Air services between Wick John O’Groats Airport and Aberdeen International Airport are in place through a Public Service Obligation (PSO) contract with Eastern Airways. The PSO is set to be in place for three years, starting in April 2022, and is funded by Transport Scotland (£1 million per year) and Highland Council (£300,000 per year).

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