Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL) is to introduce £3 a day car parking charges at three of its islands airports – including Stornoway, where expansion work on the car parks started recently (above)

This, HIAL says, is part of its long-term programme of sustainable improvement.

The charges are set to be introduced early this summer. 

The airports involved are Sumburgh, which serves the Shetland Islands and Kirkwall on Orkney as well as Stornoway airport. 

The three airports join HIAL’s other operated airports at Inverness and Dundee, where parking charges are already in place. 

The £500,000 investment is expected to be recouped in the first 12 months of operation and from thereon money raised will be continuously reinvested to maintain and ultimately improve facilities, ensuring the long - term resilience of airport operations on the islands. 

A free hour pick up/drop off period will operate, unlike at other Scottish airports, which is intended to assist those who do not have alternative transport to get to the airports, and therefore may rely on relatives and friends picking up or dropping off. 

HIAL says it has limited the new charge to £3 per 24-hour period.  In addition, a ticket waiver scheme will allow passengers who have to travel to attend medical and hospital appointments to park for free. 

Managing director Inglis Lyon said: “HIAL is committed to being open and transparent in its operations and our decision to increase charges has been taken in the best interests ensuring long - term sustainability of our airports.”

“The new parking charges will raise revenue that will be reinvested into maintaining and continuously developing the airports in years to come.  HIAL airports are required to operate as cost-effectively as possible and we need to develop a sensible, fair and pragmatic funding model that enables us to deliver growth and ensure the vital connectivity to our communities in the Highlands and Islands.

“We have been mindful of the important role that air travel plays for those people who use healthcare facilities and receive medical treatment on the mainland and we are making p rovision to ensure they will be exempt from parking charges.”

Mr Lyon added: “We have no intention of introducing drop off charges at our airports.  At Sumburgh, Kirkwall and Stornoway we will implement a one-hour pick up and drop off zone, which should mitigate against the vast majority of flight delays. 

“Unlike other airports we do not charge for people to drop off and pick up.”

Work is expected to begin soon on installing new pay stations and barriers at the three airports.  The number of spaces planned for each airport are: Sumburgh 508, Kirkwall 288 ; Stornoway 318. 

These figures are based on current use and anticipated growth.  The planned £3 per day flat rate, means it will be the same for short - term and long - term parking.  Blue badge holders will be charged for their cars at the same rate as other drivers.  There will be provision for blue badge holders within the airport car parks and designated parking bays will be provided as close to the terminal as possible. 

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Chairman of Transportation and Infrastructure, Councillor Uisdean Robertson, said: "The Comhairle is aware that there has been a huge increase in the number of parked cars at Stornoway Airport and recognises the need for something to be done to mitigate the situation. 

“However a flat rate of £3 per day, irrespective of whether you're parked for two hours or 24, seems a high charge. 

“The 1 hour drop off/pick up zone is to be welcomed, as is the exemption for those accessing healthcare, but I think the overall scheme could be improved so as to be fairer to the travelling public. 

“Perhaps a period of consultation would have assisted with this.  Whilst we have an initiative like the ADS to encourage people to use Air Services it seems the thinking is not entirely joined up when it comes to charging.  I will be seeking discussions with our MSP and HIAL at an early stage.”