Stornoway Airport is central to the UK Government vision of how transport links will develop over the next 30 years.

That’s the view of UK Government Aviation Minister Liz Sugg who visited a series of Scottish airports over the summer.

Her aim was to discuss how Scotland may benefit from the proposals for Heathrow Airport expansion and how the UK Government can support the aviation industry to develop Scottish enterprise.
On Tuesday August 14th the Minister visited Stornoway to tour the airport facilities and met HM Coastguard and airport fire, search and rescue crews to learn about their critical role in the Western Isles.
Following a visit to Lewis over two days and meetings with business leaders from Lewis and Harris, Aviation Minister Liz Sugg said:  “The Western Isles community relies on good transport links and Stornoway airport plays a hugely important role in providing essential UK and global connections.  

 “We expect expansion at Heathrow to bring benefits to Scotland with increased tourism and more opportunities for Scottish businesses.  

“And through our aviation strategy the UK Government will identify ways to encourage the development of regional airports.”

She also visited the newly restored Lews Castle and the new Museum nan Eilean

Stornoway airport handled 132,000 passengers last year, and Visit Outer Hebrides reports that tourism generates £65m in economic value for the islands, sustains around 1000 jobs and is one of the key growth sectors.
Scotland can expect to benefit from an extra 100 flights a week to and from Heathrow following the proposed  expansion and the additional capacity is expected to encourage competition between airlines, bringing down prices for Scottish passengers.
More flights from Scottish airports will allow Stornoway to benefit from better connections to an expanded Heathrow via links with Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness airports.

And with freight capacity almost doubled at Heathrow, Scottish businesses have more opportunities to export their products to new markets across the world.
Duncan Smith, Stornoway Airport Manager for Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd, said: “We really enjoyed the visit and it was excellent that the Minister made the effort to come to Stornoway Airport and it was much appreciated by us all.

“We always strive to provide the best possible customer service for our local community within our lifeline service provision and also as part of HIAL, which has the Company vision to become the best regional Airport group in the world.”

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar also used the meeting at Stornoway Airport to raise concerns regarding air traffic management under Highland and Islands Airports Ltd proposals for centralisation.

One of the businesspeople who the minister met was Jamie McGowan, co-founder of Essence of Harris in Tarbert, who said on Twitter: “Thank you to Baroness Sugg for a fantastic meeting today.”

She also met Ranald Fraser of Stornoway Smokehouse during a visit to their Stornoway quayside premises.  Ranald said he drew attention to the vital need for reliable air links for a business which exported products across the world, particularly to Italy but also to other European countries and places like Hong Kong as well.

The airport meeting also involved representatives from Hotel Hebrides and Harris Tweed Hebrides.  Jamie McGowan said he had promoted the idea of collaboration between Island businesses as well as drawing attention to the need for good transport links both by air and sea. 

The Comhairle said later it welcomed the opportunity to meet with the minister.  Councillor Uisdean Robertson, Chairman of the Comhairle’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said after the meeting, “We were pleased to be able to meet with Baroness Sugg as we were able to raise our concerns regarding Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd’s proposals for air traffic management arrangements for the region”.

“We have ongoing concerns regarding the impact that their centralisation strategy will have on the local economy of the Western Isles – with a total of 17 highly paid jobs being lost from Stornoway and Benbecula airports, this will undoubtedly have a disproportionate impact for our community compared to mainland airports. 

“We have raising this as a major concern with the Scottish Government and HIAL since June 2017 and it appears that insufficient cognisance is being taken of the negative impact”.

“We look forward to further engagement by the UK and Scottish Governments and HIAL in this matter, particularly in the context of the principle of “islands proofing” which has been incorporated in the recently enacted Islands (Scotland) Act 2018”.

Baroness Sugg, CBE, is served as Head of Operations at 10 Downing Street under the premiership of David Cameron.  She was nominated for a life peerage in the 2016 Prime Minister's Resignation Honours and was created Baroness Sugg, of Coldharbour in the London Borough of Lambeth, on 30 August 2016

She was appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport (and minister for aviation) on 27 October 2017 replacing Lord Callanan.

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As part of her visit the Minister also toured a £20 million terminal refurbishment at Aberdeen airport designed to improve passenger experience, and met airline crew at Loganair’s headquarters in Glasgow.