Transport minister undecided on support for North Sea copters public inquiry

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Scottish transport minister Humza Yousafhumza-yousaf

Scotland’s transport minister is undecided on whether to support calls for an independent public inquiry into North Sea helicopter safety.

Humza Yousaf met a delegation of trade union representatives yesterday in Edinburgh to hear their fears about offshore transport safety.

Unite regional officer Tommy Campbell said the meeting was “helpful and informative” and that Mr Yousaf had listened to workers’ concerns.

Mr Campbell said both sides intended to meet again in the New Year to “follow up on some of the points made”.

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He added: “We are quite satisfied that the helicopter safety is being taken seriously by the Scottish Government.”

North-east Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald said the dialogue was still open, but that the Scottish Government had not yet made its position known.

Mr Macdonald said: “The Scottish Government has not dismissed the possibility of a public inquiry, but they haven’t got behind it yet either.

“They are happy to continue the dialogue.”

Ultimately, a public inquiry would require the backing of the UK Government, but unions are hopeful that support from the Scottish Government would strengthen their case.

Mr Macdonald added: “We want to convince the Scottish Government that the best way forward is to have an independent public inquiry.

“Then it can be about the whole sector, not just technical issues.”

Mr Macdonald tabled a member’s business motion to bring the debate into the Scottish Parliament in October.

Several MSPs backed calls from unions for an inquiry at the cross-party debate in Holyrood.

Mr Yousaf said at the time he was prepared to meet those who want an inquiry.

But he clarified that the lifting of flight restrictions was a matter for aviation regulators, not the Scottish Government.

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “The health and safety of oil and gas workers in the North Sea is of paramount importance to the Scottish Government and the transport minister had an informative and constructive meeting with union representatives, where he heard their views directly on helicopter safety.

“Whilst the regulation of aviation safety is a reserved matter for the UK Government, it’s important all stakeholders work together to ensure the workforce have confidence that every effort is being made to keep them safe when travelling to and from offshore facilities.”

More to follow.

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