A call by one of the contenders for the Liberal-Democrat party leadership to end domestic flights in the UK has been derided as ‘out of touch’ and isolationist for Scotland’s islands.
Kingston and Surbiton MP Sir Ed Davey is contending with East Dunbartonshire MP Jo Swinson to become leader of the Lib-Dems. On Sunday (July 14th) he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr on that he stood by previous calls for domestic air travel to end.
He said: “When there are alternatives we can end domestic flights. We need a lot more train capacity, a lot more investment in public transport and while it’s not working, of course you couldn’t end domestic flights, but when you do then we can.”
Sir Ed’s comments have drawn outrage from na h-Eileanan an Iar MSP Alasdair Allan, speaking for the SNP, and from Tory MSP Donald Cameron.
Alasdair Allan said today (Monday July 15th): "The Liberal Democrats are so out of touch with Scotland that they fail to consider how their plans to tackle climate change could in fact isolate Scotland's islands.
"Many people and businesses in island communities like Shetland, Orkney and Na h-Eileanan an Iar rely on domestic flights as a lifeline for access to services, work and their families. It's everyone's responsibility to play their part in the fight against climate change, but a blanket approach like this would seriously harm Scotland's islands' economy and communities."
Sir Ed Davey has re-stated a position he has made clear during his time outside government, although during his time as secretary of state for energy and climate change during David Cameron’s co-alition government, his department was one of the highest spending on internal UK flights.
Figures drawn from answers to parliamentary questions in 2013 showed that his department spent £148,000 on 668 internal flights, many between London and Scotland and others within Scotland. At the time Green MP Caroline Lucas said she found it hard to believe civil servants and ministers could not have taken more eco-friendly trains on some of the journeys.
The Scottish Conservative MSP for the Highlands and Islands, Donald Cameron said: “The Summer silly season seems to have affected Sir Ed’s judgement.
“I am quite sure that this proposal will never see the light of the day as it would be disastrous for our island communities in the Highlands and Islands, which are already struggling with problems caused by the HIAL dispute and ferry cancellations.
“Addressing the enormous challenge of climate change is a very serious issue and, in seeking solutions, we need sensible workable proposals that are capable of winning assent.
“These comments seem to have more to do with winning the support of LibDem activists than they have with developing workable policy proposals.”
(This report has been updated to include comments from Scottish Conservative MSP for the Highlands and Islands, Donald Cameron, since first being posted)