Friday 21 March 2003

Should air routes be protected?

The economy of northern Scotland is very dependent on the air route to London Gatwick:
GEORGE McRae, general manager of White's Electronics in Inverness, a US-owned metal detector manufacturer, believes that daily return flights at business-friendly times to one of London's two biggest airports are vital to the region's economy.
Mr McRae agrees with local politicians that the Inverness to Gatwick route be protected by means of a Public Service Obligation:
The Council, together with a number of Highland partners, lodged an application for a PSO on the Inverness – Gatwick route in November of last year. It had the full backing of the Scottish Executive. The PSO would ring fence the three daily return slots at Gatwick, preventing them from being taken over by any other service.
As a good free-marketer, I don't like the idea of the state telling airlines and airport operators how to run their businesses. Nevertheless, the UK is a uniquely centralised (actually, south-easternised) country - not as a result of market forces but because of government policies. Over 40% of our GDP is spent by the state; the balance is increasingly regulated by the state and, to a greater extent than elsewhere in the western world, that spending and regulating is concentrated in London.

This is why transport links from the "provinces" (is that term used in any other country?) to the capital are so important. Let's decentralise the UK governing machine out of London, thus helping we provincials. Better still, let's abolish or privatise at least 90% of government activity.