Prime Minister Reaffirms Commitment To Scilly

Andrew George, MP

David Cameron reaffirmed the government’s commitment to Scilly in Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons, yesterday.

It followed a request for help by islands’ MP Andrew George, two months after the helicopter service ended.

Mr George told the PM that there had been significant challenges to islanders, medical services and the economy of the islands since BIH ended flights. The MP said that this was Scilly’s, “hour of desperate need.”

But the PM stopped short of offering a guarantee of support.

Mr Cameron shares Transport Minister Norman Baker’s view that the commercial sector should be left to sort out travel services but the government will keep an eye on what develops.

It’s estimated that Land’s End airport was, or will be, shut on 14 days and partially closed for another 6 between the start of November and Christmas Eve, according to figures from the National Air Traffic Service.

Andrew George says the Steamship Company are doing the best that they can, but the disruption underlines the need for a rotary service.

He remains hopeful that a new helicopter operator will emerge and says “all the building blocks are there.” He admits it is a long shot but added that he’s not one, “to throw in the towel.”

A rotary service has to be commercially viable, he says, and there’s no point approaching any Minister expecting ongoing subsidy, but government can help by underwriting the first few years’ operation or financing the start-up.

This could ‘dovetail’ with a search and rescue operation based in Penzance rather than Culdrose. Although the aircraft would be different, engineering facilities could be shared, he says.

Andrew feels the government would also have to support the Steamship Company at the same time to ensure any subsidy isn’t anti-competitive.

He believes that other Ministers, outside transport, should be informed of the problems too.

The NHS is being inconvenienced as transfer of blood samples by air has still not been sorted and Mr George says he knows of three cases where patients have been airlifted, at great cost, when previously they could have caught the scheduled helicopter.

But Andrew feels campaigners for better transport links for the islands are walking a tightrope between highlighting genuine problems with transport and scaring off would-be visitors with stories of disruption.

FRIST member, Marian Bennett, said the group was grateful to Mr George for keeping the debate open and bringing it before the commons to ensure that there is no ignorance or complacency within government.

FRIST has been assisting the MP by obtaining the figures for travel disruption from the National Air Traffic Service.


4 Responses to Prime Minister Reaffirms Commitment To Scilly

  1. Katie F December 23, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    ‘Afraid to put my name’, I think that it’s totally valid to expect the same level of central government support as the Scottish islands but I also think that you’ve been a little melodramatic in your post; if you choose to live on Scilly then your priority isn’t and cannot be access to relatives. We live on a slice of paradise but you have to take the rough [seas] with the smooth and accept that there will be times when you can’t guarantee that you’ll get off the islands, no matter the travel options.

    An all year round boat service would be good for islanders, local businesses and off-season tourists alike. Subsidised travel would help reboot our tourism industry and it’s something we would all like to see. But the same connectivity as a remote town linked by 28 miles of road rather than open water? No chance…

  2. pat hicks December 23, 2012 at 9:42 am

    Cant see why your afraid to put your name to the post.
    I think we have all been rather short sighted with the ending of the helicopter buisness. but now we have got alot more individuals, FRIST and the council more involved i am sure the out come will be positive..

    But please do not be afraid to put post on ,we are all intitled to our opinion .

  3. Afraid to put my name December 22, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    Something needs to be done because right now we’re one of the remotest places in the first world.

    We pray that a freight ship gets to us with supplies, and people can’t leave the islands for a week in some cases. For gods sake, there’s Arctic research centres more accessible than us.

    It never used to be like this. It’s staggering the level of foresight from the Council over the years, it’s all a bt too little too late and now we’re just hoping that Andrew George can help us.

    Is it too much to ask to be connected to the UK across 28 miles of water? Just a scheduled service, a chance to take my children across to see their grandparents, am I setting my sights too high?

    Do you really think you can build a tourist industry around islands this isolated? The picture changed this year, massively. Good luck everyone.

  4. derek metcalfe December 21, 2012 at 7:27 pm

    ” Prime Minister Reaffirms Commitment to Scilly”. Sounds a bit like the ringing endorsment from a football club chairman before he sacks the manager.