Orkney's MSP, Liam McArthur has called on the Transport Minister to act to end the "long running and damaging" dispute that has led to the suspension of lifeline services between Inverness and the three main island groups for six weeks.
Speaking during Topical Questions earlier today, Mr McArthur highlighted the case of one constituent due to undergo a mastectomy operation in Shetland later this month who now faces a possible eight-hour ferry journey the day after surgery or the prospect of a week away from home due to the suspension of flights between Orkney and Shetland.
Mr McArthur went on to remind the Minister, Jenny Gilruth that these are lifeline services and questioned why HIAL, which is wholly owned by the Scottish Government, had been forced to stick to a 5% pay offer long after counterparts at CalMac were "freed up" to offer staff more.
During the exchanges, Ms Gilruth confirmed that the government has now allowed HIAL scope to develop a new pay offer after discussions with the Minister and trade unions over the weekend.
Commenting afterwards, Mr McArthur said:
"Islanders have faced disruption to lifeline air services for months but Loganair’s announcement last week that it was suspending flights between Inverness and the islands has caused alarm in the communities affected.
"As well as those looking to travel for work, I was able to highlight to the Minister the impact on constituents with important medical appointments.
"While the decision by Loganair is deeply regrettable it does appear to have spurred the Scottish Government into action. What is less clear is why it took this long and this sort of action for the Transport Minister to give HIAL management the same flexibility as CalMac bosses to reach an agreement with staff.
"What is needed now is a swift agreement to end this long-running and damaging dispute so that islanders get the reliable lifeline air services they need and deserve."