Orkney’s MSP, Liam McArthur, has used a Liberal Democrat Members Business Debate on the proposed centralisation of air traffic control in the Highlands and Islands to argue that the decision was a ‘deck stacked from the start.’
Mr McArthur reiterated that there was a need for modernisation but criticised HIAL for dismissing alternative options that carried less risk or cost.
Responding to the debate, Transport Minister, Michael Matheson, repeated his assurance that an islands impact assessment will be carried out on the proposals.
Following the debate, Mr McArthur commented:
“It is hard to escape the conclusion that the deck was stacked in favour of the ‘remote tower’ model from the start. HIAL has been determined to pursue this centralisation from the get go, despite their own consultants identifying it as the most risky and costly option.
“All the talk of consultation counts for little if no account is taken of the concerns being raised by ATC staff and other stakeholders. It also calls into question the value of any island impact assessment that HIAL might do on plans they intend taking forward in any event.
“Modernisation of air traffic control services is not in dispute. This needs to happen. However, unless HIAL find a way of convincing their staff, not only will their centralisation plans be undeliverable but current lifeline services will be under threat.
“That is a risk that island and rural communities cannot afford. It is a risk that Ministers need to take seriously, not least given their obligations under the Islands Act.
“Given the strength of feeling expressed by members across the Chamber this afternoon, it is time for HIAL and the Scottish Government to call a halt to these plans”.