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Wednesday, 21 August, 2002, 16:59 GMT 17:59 UK
Plan for flights to small islands
Oban
The application is for flights to islands from Oban
A new plan to provide scheduled air services to some of Scotland's smallest island communities has been announced by councillors.

Argyll and Bute Council has applied for a licence to open Oban Airport for commercial flights to islands such as Coll and Colonsay.

It will also allow links with Glasgow and Edinburgh airports.

The council is hoping the plan will attract support from the Scottish Executive and the European Union.


Argyll and Bute Council is calling on the Scottish Executive to help make this happen and protect our islands from deprivation and depopulation

Ian Gillies

It said the move would open up the islands to daytrippers while making it easier for islanders, whose numbers have been falling in recent decades, to travel to the mainland.

Schoolchildren would be able to go home at weekends, while people needing to use vital services in Oban such as the town's hospital would also benefit from better access, a spokesman said.

Research funded by Argyll and the Islands Enterprise has shown strong support for using Oban's North Connel airstrip as an access point with potential links to Scotland's central belt and the rest of the UK.

The council said it had received "positive" early indications over the Code 2 application from the Civil Aviation Authority, who would have to approve any plan to operate commercial services.

It has called on the executive to stimulate the development of regular flights through a public service obligation, which would guarantee lifeline routes.

Public service obligation

Ian Gillies, who represents the islands of Coll and Tiree on the council, said air services were vital to the development of the islands.

He said: "Argyll and Bute Council is calling on the Scottish Executive to help make this happen and protect our islands from deprivation and depopulation.

"They can do this by granting a public service obligation on the routes we want to help establish."

Coll is currently accessible by a 2hrs 45mins ferry service from Oban which runs five days a week, making it unsuitable for day trips.

Colonsay's three-day-a-week service from Oban, via the neighbouring island of Islay, confounded attempts by the Scottish Parliament's Rural Development Committee to hold a meeting there.

The meeting - organised to highlight the difficulties of life in remote communities - was eventually scrapped in favour of a visit by a delegation of five MSPs who invited the whole island to lunch.

Colonsay's population has dipped below 100 in the last 10 years, while the number of inhabitants of Coll has fallen steadily over the last century and a half and currently stands at 172.

An executive spokesman said a detailed business case would need to be put forward before any form was governement assistance was offered.

He added that such a move would to be agreed by the European Commission.

See also:

16 Jul 02 | Scotland
26 Mar 02 | Scotland
10 Jun 02 | Scotland
04 Dec 00 | Scotland
05 Oct 00 | Scotland
29 Jul 00 | Scotland
28 Jul 00 | Scotland
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