Letter from Edinburgh - Friday 4th August

Imagine waiting 4 hours to pass through Sumburgh security? Indeed. It just does not happen. But that is the reality facing thousands of holiday makers going through airports across Europe this week. The English school holidays have started and August is a very busy month of travel from British airports to the Mediterranean. Holiday companies warned the government earlier in the year that immigration and passport control would be much stricter this summer at places like Majorca’s Palma airport. And so it has proved. I can only feel sorry for parents caught with children in a hot stuffy airport sitting on the floor for hour after hour snaking very slowly towards a passport check. 

The official reason is something called Schengen. This is the free movement area of Europe. Countries in Schengen see their citizens move across borders with minimal checks. That covers most of continental Europe. The UK has not joined this area. So countries within Europe who are not part of this movement zone, and the UK is by no means alone, have faced extra checks this summer.

The downside for Majorca, Lisbon or Madrid is the impact on the holiday trade. Whether governments across the EU are making a point about Brexit is not clear. I find it hard to believe that tourists who spend money in Spanish hotels, restaurants and bars are being targeted as pawns in the game of European politics. After all the domestic economy of Spain in particular is desperately in need of the euros we all spend in that wonderful country. So this transport blip, or utter nightmare if you are caught in such a queue, may be a short term issue.

Not that matters get a whole lot better on returning to Edinburgh. Our capital city’s international arrivals entrance and hall is hopelessly inadequate. We treat lambs on the north boats with more dignity than passengers arriving in Scotland from overseas. I walked through Edinburgh this week coming home. A sign proclaims that we, the airport, are investing in more shops……Great. A few less shops and some money spent on a proper arrivals hall for visitors to the country is long overdue. Sumburgh looks considerably better by comparison.

Good for Loganair in getting the Orkney inter county team home after the weekend. There were various rumours floating around Lerwick’s hostelries last Friday night that the Gibbie Park kick off was to be 3pm not as advertised at 5pm. This was due to a transport mix up. But Loganair sorted out a charter on the Sunday to get people home for work on Monday. Congratulations to all involved in making the county weekend a great sporting and social success. And for giving me the moral right to claim victory over Liam McArthur.. We will spend many an evening when Parliament resumes debating whether winning the Veterans and mixed hockey and the fitba constitutes a clear victory for Shetland last weekend. I think so!

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