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Monday, 10 June, 2002, 15:42 GMT 16:42 UK
Low cost airfares campaign launched
Small plane at Inverness Airport
The SNP wants Highland fares to be cut
A campaign to bring down the cost of airfares from Scotland has been launched by one of the country's most prominent politicians.

John Swinney said he also wanted to see access to other destinations improved as he called on the Scottish Executive to intervene.

The Scottish National Party leader said Highlands and Islands Airports (HIAL) was not being properly supported with the result that Scots in the north of the country bear higher costs.

Mr Swinney said that lack of support also led to heavy surcharges for onward flights on summer holidays.

John Swinney
John Swinney launched the campaign in Inverness

But the Scottish Executive says it has increased support to HIAL which runs 10 airports, earning on average about 10 per passenger from landing charges.

Mr Swinney launched the Fair Fares campaign in Inverness, where low cost passenger airlines have been seeking to introduce new services, but at reduced costs.

He said: "Internally our airfares are too high, externally our links are too few and this situation is being compounded by the high surcharges Scots have to pay every year for their summer holidays.

"The north, in particular, has suffered from a Lib-Lab double whammy, high landing charges and low support for services.

'Encourage operators'

"The Scottish Executive has done nothing to break the logjam over landing charges at Inverness and to encourage low cost carriers into Inverness."

Mr Swinney said the executive, as the owner of the airports, was in charge of transport policy and therefore bound to act in the interest of the Highlands and Islands as well as the country as a whole.

SNP transport spokesman Kenny MacAskill said the party would take the campaign across the country.

Inverness Airport
Inverness Airport is central to the campaign

Mr MacAskill said: "Landing charges must be brought down, the cost of flights must be brought down, and more low cost operators must be encouraged to put on more flights to more destinations."

However, an executive spokesman said HIAL did not set airfares and that "with an average of less than 10 per passenger, the level of landing charges is very clearly not the main determinant of airfares".

The spokesman said: "HIAL's landing charges compare favourably with similarly sized airports in the rest of the UK.

"Through subsidy, the Scottish Executive already meets 75% of the operating costs of Highlands and Islands airports."

The spokesman said the executive would encourage the airport company to attract new services, including those offered by low cost operators.

He added: "The Scottish Executive support for HIAL is at record levels, currently at 21.5m in the current financial year."

See also:

29 May 02 | Scotland
17 Jan 02 | Scotland
14 Aug 01 | Scotland
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