Cross Party letter demands action from government on HIAL remote towers plan

8 September 2021

A cross party group of MSPs, MPs, council leaders, community members and trade unionists has written to the Scottish Government demanding they engage with them on the Highland and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL) plan for remote air traffic control towers based in Inverness.

This is a vital issue for communities in the Highlands and Islands and would remove vital high value jobs from economies that can ill afford to lose them.

Prospect, which represents air traffic control personnel at HIAL is in dispute with the company over the proposals. The Scottish Government, which has the power to overrule the plans, has so far refused to meet the communities affected to hear what impact the plans will have. Under extreme pressure they finally offered a meeting with the minister more than two months from now.

The letter says:

This decision impacts some of the most precarious communities in Scotland, it comes at a time when the Scottish Government is consulting on providing direct financial support to families to relocate to these communities. We are concerned that HIAL’s plan would directly undermine the stated policy object of the Scottish Government to encourage people with valuable skills and good jobs to move to the Highlands and Islands. We are further concerned that the way in which HIAL has pursued this project risks undermining the integrity of the Islands Act.

David Avery, Prospect negotiator, said:

“The refusal of the Scottish Government to engage with this hugely important issue has baffled local communities and left them questioning whether ministers care about the impact of their policies. This letter, signed by local and national politicians of all parties, demonstrates the strength of feeling about HIAL’s ill-considered plans to remove high value jobs from the communities they serve.

“The Scottish Government has a duty to listen to the communities affected by this change. Ministers must meet with us as soon as possible so that they we can get on with finding the best way to reform air traffic controls in the Highlands and Islands without causing economic damage.”

Signatories to the letter are:
Garry Graham, Deputy General Secretary, Prospect
Alistair Carmichael MP
Angus MacNeil MP
Jamie Stone MP
Douglas Ross MP, MSP
Beatrice Wishart MSP
Tess White MSP
Mercedes Villalba MSP
Emma Roddick MSP
Rhoda Grant MSP
Liam McArthur MSP
Alasdair Allan MSP
Maggie Chapman MSP
Ariane Burgess MSP
Donald Cameron MSP
Cllr Steven Coutts, Leader of Shetland Council
Cllr James Stockan, Leader of Orkney Council
Cllr Roddie Mackay, Leader Comhairle nan Eilean Siar