Proposals for a near £55m expansion of Inverness Airport as part of a 25 year plan to see a doubling of passenger numbers have been branded ‘reckless’.
The plan – unveiled in the same year COP26 is due to take place in Scotland – estimates that the number of passengers could more than double from the pre-pandemic number of 947,000 to some 2.1 million by 2045.
But the Scottish Greens lead candidate for the Highlands and Islands at the forthcoming Scottish elections Ariane Burgess hit out at the bid, saying the money would be far better spent bringing the rail and bus networks up to scratch instead.
She said: “We have only nine years left before climate science tells us global warming becomes irreversible. To produce a 25-year plan to more than double air travel through Inverness is reckless.
“We are still paying for the current facilities at Inverness airport, a legacy of the Labour and Liberal Democrat’s extortionate PFI project. They are more than adequate for life-line services across the Highlands and Islands.
“As we build a recovery from COVID, instead of driving growth in air traffic it’s vital we prioritise accessible connectivity through improving our bus and train network.
“This plan from a government agency reveals the gap between the climate rhetoric from ministers and action on the ground, while the Conservatives seem willing to ignore the climate crisis altogether.
“Only the Scottish Greens have the urgent solutions, like our proposed £22bn upgrade of Scotland’s railways which would serve our communities and create thousands of jobs.”
She was backed by the current Green MSP for the area, John Finnie, who said: “Ariane Burgess is spot on here.
“HIAL are consistently wrong, from centralising air traffic control jobs to a lack of community consultation, whilst all the other parties pay lip service to the climate emergency they purport to recognise.”
However Inverness Airport general manager, Graeme Bell, insisted there was a demand for an expanded airport for the region.
He told The Herald: “We have conducted a traffic forecast exercise that indicates the airport will continue to thrive post-Covid, predominantly through further expansion of the UK market and a modest growth of international passengers.
“The draft plans show four options of facilitating our anticipated development, made up of three extensions to the existing terminal building and one option for a completely new terminal building constructed on the south side of the airfield.
“The concepts presented within the plan have been designed to provide intuitive passenger flows that will enable fast-track movement of business and frequent travellers, and walk-through retail space to enhance the commercial experience.”
The Press & Journal reported how the plan could see the current terminal moved and replaced to be closer to a rail station being installed on site.