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Monday, 4 December, 2000, 16:31 GMT
Cash lift-off for airports
British Airways plane on ground
The new money promises to improve safety
A 1.3m fund has been earmarked for improvements to safety at 10 airports in the Highlands and Islands.

Scotland's Transport Minister Sarah Boyack announced the extra cash on Monday during a visit to Sumburgh Airport in Shetland.

She said good air links were an essential part of transport provision in more remote areas of the country.

The money will be used to pay for firefighter training and environmental work to address the adverse impact of using de-icing fluid at airports.

Sarah Boyack
Sarah Boyack: "Determined to see improvements"
Ms Boyack said the move would ensure safety standards were not being compromised.

The improvements are scheduled to be in place by the end of March.

Ms Boyack added: "I am determined that the standards, set by the regulatory and safety authorities, are met in full at the airports.

"The additional funding ensures that the standards are not compromised."

The airports to benefit include Barra, Benbecula, Campbeltown, Inverness, Islay, Kirkwall, Stornoway, Sumburgh, Tiree and Wick.

Air subsidy

They are run by Highlands and Islands Airports which is a Scottish Executive-owned company receiving a central government subsidy of 11.4m

Scotland's ministers have already come under pressure to subsidise lifeline air routes in the Highlands and Islands.

For some time Highland Council has expressed concerns that fares - which are said to be the highest in Europe - have been driving customers away.

It said the number of passengers using scheduled air services in the area has plummeted by a third in the last four years.

In March this year Chancellor Gordon Brown announced in his budget that he would abolish air passenger duty for flights from Highlands and Islands airports.

That move was welcomed by the Inverness Chamber of Commerce and the Scottish Council Development and Industry, which lobbied the Scottish Parliament to take action on fares on behalf of the area's social and business communities.

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See also:

09 Nov 00 | Scotland
Trains, planes and buses boost
05 Oct 00 | Scotland
Subsidy plea for 'vital' air routes
15 Mar 00 | Scotland
Highlands air taxes set to go
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