MP Says Four Fifths Of Islanders Want Helicopter Service Back

andrew george mar 2015Scilly’s MP doesn’t believe the proposed new helicopter service will be in jeopardy if there’s a change in government after 7th May.

Liberal Democrat Andrew George was speaking during a pre-election visit to the islands yesterday.

Andrew says the partners involved in the project, including helicopter manufacturer AgustaWestland, are “determined” to launch a service in spring 2016, but he says that will depend on discussions about possible subsidies for the route.

He’s had talks with Transport Minister Baroness Kramer about imposing a Public Service Obligation, which would allow the service to be underwritten, “at least in the short term,” says Andrew.

But there are problems with competition rules, because the Steamship Company is already operating here, and a “different mechanism” might be needed to support the project.

From Radio Scilly

MP Andrew George Talks to Radio Scilly

Andrew feels that shouldn’t be a problem, since the Steamship Company has already received support through the “significant amounts” of public money used to help resurface the runway at Land’s End and extend the quay at St Mary’s.

He says the minister has acknowledged that competition on the route will lead to “a healthier service” for the islands and avoid a situation where Scilly is dependent on a monopoly.

And he says islanders agree with him. His recent survey, filled in by 20% of households in Scilly, showed that around 80% want the new helicopter and 70% expressed dissatisfaction with the current transport services.

Mr George feels that Scilly is “outside the tribalism of politics” and the scheme will stand on it’s own merit, even if the government changes in the next few months.

Scilly’s constituency is marginal and Mr George has a majority of just 1,719 votes over the Conservatives.

Some politic pundits are predicting heavy losses for his party in May but Andrew said repeatedly that he’s confident of retaining the seat.

He says he had misgivings about going into coalition with the Tories, but acknowledges it was the right thing to do at the time, because there needed to be stability in government and the money markets.

“We, as the nice party, had to do a deal with the nasty party” he said. “We’ve suffered as a consequence.”

But he feels having his party in coalition has “taken the sting” out of Tory policies. He points out protection of pensions, taking the poorest out of the tax system and opposing the bedroom tax as evidence of this.

Andrew says the islands have seen a lot of upheaval over the past four years.

But he says the investments that he fought for, in the airport, harbour, roads and school, are now starting to bear fruit. And that means the islands should be entering a calmer phase.

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