Residents were shocked to discover that our air-service is about to be suspended sine diem. It will be remembered that Argyll & Bute overcame enormous odds to establish CAA approved aerodromes at Colonsay and Coll, apparently in the face of outrageous and unjustifiable sniping from private vested interests elsewhere. The then obtained EU funding to support a scheduled air-service, a major benefit of which being to permit High School students to get home for the weekends. The original carrier unfortunately was unable to maintain the service, whereupon the current operator took over. Throughout the existence of the service , Argyll & Bute and the flight operator have been magnificent – the service has been very reliable and although slightly more expensive than had been hoped it has been well-patronised. During the recent ferry debacle, for example, the air service did permit numerous individuals to fulfil hospital appointments which are very difficult to reschedule. Perhaps we have been too quiet in our praise, but even persons who were originally unhappy at the idea of an air service have been won over – it has now become a vital part of our infrastructure.
As far as is known, the contract is up for renewal and there is a funding gap between the amount that A&B feels justified in paying and the amount that the existing operator would wish to charge. One cannot comment on that situation, but one can imagine that both parties are fully committed to trying to resolve it. There are many comparable routes and one imagines that both parties are studying the underlying costs; it might be that a third-party could help in the negotiations and it is possible that an entirely new arrangement is required. One could imagine CMAL/CalMac being a possible operator, or a private company such as SERCO, or perhaps some existing airline might find a use for such an operation as part of a bigger plan. In the meantime, our highly-trained fire-crew is to be stood down, involving a financial hit to the personnel involved, and the rest of us are left more vulnerable than ever to forces beyond our control.