Alan Sav­age

The Press and Journal (Inverness, Highlands, and Islands) - - Opinion -

The con­ve­nience of fly­ing through Heathrow is go­ing to bring a lot of ben­e­fits for our busi­ness

I f there are any reg­u­lar read­ers of this col­umn, you may well re­mem­ber that, just a few short months back, I used th­ese pages to em­pha­sise the ben­e­fits that a mod­ern trans­port net­work can bring to the pros­per­ity of the re­gion. Judg­ing by re­cent an­nounce­ments, I’m be­gin­ning to think that the pow­ers that be must, in fact be the reg­u­lar read­ers.

Back in May, the fo­cus was on the new op­er­a­tors of Scot­land’s rail net­work and the need to make sure that both they and their mas­ters in the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment de­liv­ered on their pledge to de­liver first-class rail ser­vices for the north-east.

While the jury may still be out on their early per­for­mance, it’s still rel­a­tively early days, so hope­fully their act will come to­gether.

There was an­other piece of trans­port news that caught my eye this month – the de­ci­sion by Bri­tish Air­ways to fi­nally re­in­state direct flights be­tween In­ver­ness and Heathrow.

Se­cur­ing the re­turn of this ser­vice will be a great boost to an al­ready thriv­ing econ­omy, not to men­tion an im­por­tant part of the jig­saw in sup­port­ing our City Deal am­bi­tions.

As a lo­cal, any­thing that ben­e­fits the lo­cal econ­omy is good news to me. But as the chair­man of an in­ter­na­tional com­pany head­quar­tered in the city, I am even more ex­cited at the prospects that th­ese new flights will bring for our busi­ness.

Orion has its roots in the cap­i­tal of the High­lands. But as we’ve grown over the last quar­ter of a cen­tury, we’ve also cast our net far and wide to far-flung cor­ners of the globe.

So whether I’m pop­ping down to meet with our team in our new Lon­don of­fices or jet­ting off to Hous­ton or Pa­pua New Guinea, the con­ve­nience of fly­ing through Heathrow is go­ing to bring a lot of ben­e­fits for our busi­ness.

I couldn’t be­lieve it when I read that as many as 70,000 pas­sen­gers a year had been lost to In­ver­ness Air­port as a re­sult of the lack of a direct flight to Heathrow.

That’s 70,000 peo­ple who could have been com­ing to and from the area for busi­ness or for plea­sure.

Think about it this way: over the course of 18 years, that could have been as many as 1.26mil­lion peo­ple con­tribut­ing money to the lo­cal econ­omy, help­ing to sus­tain lo­cal busi­nesses and jobs.

It’s of­ten said that size doesn’t mat­ter? How­ever, in the case of a runway, I think it does. Where’s this go­ing? Well, I think that if In­ver­ness could take the Air­bus A380 plane, the A380 would land there even­tu­ally. I firmly be­lieve the pros­per­ity of a re­gion is di­rectly linked to its trans­port in­fra­struc­ture and, in par­tic­u­lar, the size of its air­port. There’s plenty of land out there. Need­less to say, clos­ing an in­ter­na­tional air­port at 9.30pm at the week­ends is parochial be­yond be­lief.

Of course, this could all be put at risk if the UK Gov­ern­ment doesn’t hurry up and make a de­ci­sion about the fu­ture of Bri­tain’s air­port ca­pac­ity.

The Davies Com­mis­sion hummed and hawed for more than three years be­fore set­tling on Heathrow as its pre­ferred air­port for ex­pan­sion.

But we’ve still to get a for­mal re­sponse from the UK Gov­ern­ment about whether or not it will go ahead and im­ple­ment those find­ings.

Did you know that the Bulling­don Club is an ex­clu­sive but un­of­fi­cial all-male stu­dents’ din­ing club based in Ox­ford, UK? It is noted for its wealthy mem­bers, grand ban­quets and bois­ter­ous rit­u­als, such as the van­dal­is­ing (“trash­ing”) of restau­rants and col­lege rooms.

The club has at­tracted con­tro­versy, due to for­mer mem­bers now be­ing part of the UK po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment. Th­ese in­clude cur­rent Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron, Chan­cel­lor Ge­orge Os­borne and Lon­don mayor Boris John­son.

So Bulling­don boys David Cameron and Boris John­son should pack in their ex­tracur­ric­u­lar stuff and agree fi­nally on the Heathrow runway.


Be­ing part of the Euro­pean Union is fun­da­men­tal formy busi­ness, so all this ma­cho-man stuff from num­ber 1 Bull to ap­pease his right wing is ex­tremely un­nerv­ing.

Leav­ing the EU is a com­pletely ab­surd idea. The whole idea all those years ago, af­ter two world wars, was to stop an­other one by cre­at­ing a po­lit­i­cal union be­tween France and Ger­many, which led into an eco­nomic union – a com­mon mar­ket.

Lots and lots of coun­tries are try­ing to get in, with only one, as far as I know, threat­en­ing to throw the toys out of the pram. The EU is good for busi­ness and good for peace. Why else would Aus­tralia want in, or was that the Euro­vi­sion Song Con­test?

Stick­ing with the travel theme (sort of), I saw my first Christ­mas tree last Satur­day, a very big and sub­limely dec­o­rated one, to boot. Where was this? You’ll never guess. Well, it was in the de­par­ture lounge in Port Moresby air­port, Pa­pua New Guinea.

I con­tinue to gather air miles in my quest to re­po­si­tion Orion in the $47 a bar­rel oil world we face un­til Saudi turns the taps down a bit. I can’t understand why any­one would sell a prod­uct for $47 when they could get $100? Ah well, maybe the Bulling­don boys will fig­ure it out once they have de­cided on Heathrow.

Alan Sav­age is chair­man of the In­ver­ness-based Orion Group, a High­land phi­lan­thropist and a for­mer chair­man of SPFL club In­ver­ness Cale­do­nian This­tle

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