Appendix A - Note of stakeholder workshop on international connectivity and freight


As part of the Scottish Government’s consultation on developing an aviation strategy officials held a series of virtual meetings with aviation stakeholders to discuss the key themes set out in our discussion document: aviation’s transition to net-zero, Scotland’s international connectivity, Scotland’s domestic connectivity and air freight.

This note summarises the main points from the stakeholder workshop on Scotland's international connectivity and airfreight, held on the 2nd of December 2021, where participants discussed relevant questions from the consultation document. A summary of each discussion is provided below.

The feedback from all of the stakeholder workshops, together with the responses to the SG’s online consultation, will inform the development of the Scottish Government’s aviation strategy, which is expected to be published in 2022.


The following organisations participated in the workshop:

  • Airlines UK
  • Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL)
  • Scottish Chambers of Commerce
  • Edinburgh Airport
  • VisitScotland
  • AGS Airports Limited
  • Scottish Development International (SDI)
  • Scottish Enterprise


The discussion document explains what the Scottish Government aims to achieve for international air connectivity, based on existing strategies and commitments:

“To help airports and airlines rebuild and grow Scotland’s international air connectivity following COVID-19 to support inbound tourism and sustainable economic growth, whilst reducing the environmental impact of aviation in line with the Scottish Government’s commitment to be a net-zero nation by 2045.

This includes achieving similar levels of global connectivity as leading peer nations and regions (e.g. Ireland and Catalonia) with the ultimate aim of being able to travel between Scotland and any major city in the world either directly or with, at most, only one stop. Such improvements in international connectivity support Scottish business and stimulate new markets for inbound tourism.”

The discussion document also explains the Scottish Government aim for airfreight: “To help achieve the commitment in the National Transport Strategy to promote efficient and sustainable freight transport.”

The discussion document contains more detailed information on both international connectivity and airfreight. Brief extracts are provided below, in order to provide context to the stakeholder discussions.


A summary of the main points arising from each discussion is provided below. Comments have been anonymised, as agreed with participants in advance.

Discussion 1: Considering future challenges and opportunities, what changes, if any, should we make to our approach to help achieve our aim for international connectivity?


Transport Scotland, Scottish Development International, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and VisitScotland work in partnership to provide support to airlines and airports. Support to airlines can involve cooperative marketing packages and/or market intelligence and data on the potential of the Scottish market.

Stakeholder views

  • It was noted that the pre-covid ‘Team Scotland’ support to the sector for route development was good. However, we need to consider how the approach could change to respond to the pandemic.
  • There was a consensus on the need for government to work with the sector to understand how support can best be targeted; intelligence on likely future trends around demand and capacity is needed as we develop the aviation strategy.
  • While recognising restrictions around, for example, providing direct support to airlines, it was suggested that Scottish Government could allocate more resources and consider how to be more creative in its approach.
  • One suggestion was risk share partnerships, another was exploring with the UK Government the feasibility of establishing short-term public service obligations to cover international flights to and from Scotland.

Discussion 2: Which countries should we prioritise in the short, medium and long term?


The Scottish Government has compiled an initial list of priority countries for short and long haul air travel. The list is based on existing strategies and relevant data, and aims to ensure that work on helping to rebuild Scotland’s air connectivity is as effective as possible.

Stakeholder views

  • Some suggestions were made for adjusting the list of priority countries, for example, by moving Ireland up the list, including countries from which Scotland is looking to attract workers; making the long haul list more aspirational by adding countries like India or Ethiopia; and widening out Australia to Australasia. It was noted that direct connectivity with Australia might impact on our global hub connectivity, which was also essential.
  • Alternatively, it was proposed that the Scottish Government could focus more on connectivity and on its desired outcomes, and demonstrate greater flexibility in its approach, rather than establish a prescriptive list of countries. This would also entail a greater focus on hubs, which provide access to many countries. If such an approach were adopted, it was acknowledged that the Scottish Government would still require some kind of structure to govern its decisions, and that there would not be funding available to do everything.
  • Transport Scotland may wish to have a more dedicated discussion on this proposal, to inform development of the aviation strategy.

Discussion 3: How do we incentivise the use of more efficient aircraft, whilst still ensuring that we secure the routes Scotland needs?


The Scottish Government is committed to reducing the environmental impact of restoring international connectivity.

Stakeholder views

  • In providing route development support to the sector, ‘Team Scotland’ could seek to incentivise cleaner aircraft. However, the potential difficulty of turning away a request for support because the aircraft being used was not the latest, cleanest model available was acknowledged.
  • Advice provided to Ministers on route development business cases could include a description of the airline’s environmental commitments. This would allow us to respond to later questions, particularly on spend, on the actions we’ve taken.
  • It was also suggested that we could strengthen the narrative on ongoing actions and commitments to lowering emissions, and on airspace modernisation and its benefits, to increase public awareness.
  • In any case, it was suggested that the market was already driving environmental improvements to aircraft without the Scottish Government necessarily having to develop any new policy or commit further resources to encourage this process.
  • Encouraging the use of sustainable aviation fuel may be a far more productive and useful role for Scottish Government.

Discussion 4: What more, if anything, do you think the Scottish Government can do to help promote efficient and sustainable airfreight transport?


The Scottish Government’s National Transport Strategy sets out the importance of the effective movement of goods, including by air, for trade and sustainable economic growth. However, airfreight currently makes up less than 1% of total freight in Scotland.

Stakeholder views

  • There are opportunities for a significant increase in the amount of freight being flown from Scottish airports. Currently, large volumes travel by road to England and are then flown out, particularly through Heathrow.
  • Government is already providing support on this, for example, by developing links between freight leads at airports and wider industry networks. But it was suggested that a wider discussion involving all freight modes, not just aviation, and freight forwarders was needed in order to deliver real change.
  • Other parts of Scottish Government are also interested increasing direct exports from Scotland, so we need to be joined up.
  • Specifically relating to the Highlands and Islands:
    • Scottish Government could ask UK Government to ensure the CAA has the capacity necessary to enable use of UAVs (drones) and the required airspace change.
    • An increase in online shopping in the region has helped to make airfreight from the highlands and islands more commercially viable.

Discussion 5: What else do you think the aviation strategy should try to achieve?


While the discussion document sets out the Scottish Government’s key themes, it makes clear that we are open to other ideas on what the Aviation Strategy should try to achieve.

Stakeholder views

  • The aviation strategy needs to have a clear vision and be clear on expected outcomes. Aviation policy can’t be developed in isolation. One stakeholder considered that aviation does not always receive the full cross-sectoral/ cross-government support required.
  • The aviation strategy also needs to recognise that different parts of the Scottish Government have a direct or indirect interest in aviation, or make decisions that can affect the future of the sector. For example:
    • It was suggested that the next national planning framework (NPF4) may not include airport enhancements as being of national importance, but it was not known why and there may impacts on the sector;
    • There needs to be a join up between national government and local authority decisions on how, for example, access roads to airports are made.

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