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Scotland's aviation sector is on the brink of collapse, MSPs hear

Scottish Labour backs trade unionists' calls for government intervention

SCOTLAND’S entire civil aviation sector is on the brink of collapse and urgent action is needed to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, Scottish lawmakers heard today. 

A debate in Holyrood saw Labour back calls from trade unions to intervene with a specific package of support for the industry, including protections for jobs and working conditions.

The party’s transport spokesman Colin Smyth led a discussion of MSPs on Sustainable Aviation Beyond Covid-19, raising concerns about the risk of further widespread job losses in aviation, and in connected sectors such as tourism. 

It is thought that more than 1,700 jobs could be under threat.

Among the suggested actions was a call to test travellers as they arrive in Scotland as an alternative to 14-day quarantine rules.

Mr Smyth said support for the sector need not clash with commitments to protect Scotland’s natural environment, with the Labour motion in the debate calling for funding to be targeted at protecting jobs and securing a just transition to a green economy. 

The Labour MSP added: “The clock is ticking for this support. Now is time for action. Time to work with the aviation sector, trade unions and all stakeholders to urgently agree a support package for Scotland’s aviation workers. 

Cabinet Secretary for Transport Michael Matheson said the government did not underestimate the importance of the sector to the economy or the challenges facing the industry. 

The government’s amendment committed to exploring “immediate support measures for industry.”

Unite welcomed the debate, saying co-ordinated action is needed now amid fears the sector will take years to recover.

The debate comes after a new report revealed thousands of workers are being sacked at airports nationwide due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

GMB produced the report following research by academic organisation Oxford Economics, and commissioned by Heathrow Community Engagement Board.

More than 133,600 jobs are dependent on Heathrow, but 2021 could see this fall to as little as 70,700, the union said.

British Airways chief executive Alex Cruz also defended job cuts today, claiming the public are “afraid of travelling.” 

He said the pandemic has “devastated our business,” adding he “regretted” job losses but “fewer flights means fewer people required to actually service them.”

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