MSP condemns ATC centralisation plans

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, has condemned the announcement that plans to centralise air traffic control (ATC) in the Highlands and Islands will go ahead, despite fierce opposition from local communities, from the Prospect Union and from a cross section of MSPs.

Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) has announced that air traffic control for five Scottish regional airports will be undertaken centrally from Inverness. The airports involved are Sumburgh, Dundee, Inverness, Kirkwall and Stornoway.

HIAL said the change will modernise air traffic control but the Prospect Union say the plan puts 60 jobs at risk and described it as “poorly thought through”. It will rely on remote towers, which will not need to be staffed, feeding information to a new surveillance centre in Inverness.

Rhoda Grant said “From the day these proposals were first aired in 2017 I have received representation from local communities who are desperate to maintain the current system for safety reasons and to protect island jobs.

“I have been told that this project relies on superhigh bandwith to succeed. We all know that many of our remote and rural areas do not have this so how can HIAL press on regardless?

“The proposals to downgrade services at Wick and Benbecula are astounding given the localities have been earmarked as space ports. These decisions also fly in the face of the Scottish Government’s own recently published Islands Plan which seeks to protect and improve services and employment in island communities.

“HIAL appears to be intent on pushing this through despite its own consultants identifying the ‘remote tower’ model as the most costly and risky option.

“While this decision fits with the Scottish Government’s determination to centralise services out of local areas, it is an appalling decision and HIAL and the Scottish Government must stop these plans right now before remote air services are jeopardised and more local jobs are taken out of rural communities.”