Orkney’s MSP, Liam McArthur, has criticised the Scottish Government for allowing HIAL to press ahead with plans to centralise air traffic control services in the Highlands & Islands before the completion of an island impact assessment.
Last month, Mr McArthur lodged parliamentary questions to ask if the Scottish Government would defer all major costs for delivering the strategy until an island impact assessment had been completed. He also asked Ministers if the businesses case would be reappraised in light of the impact of Covid-19 on air travel.
In response, the Transport Secretary, Michael Matheson confirmed that the business case will not be reviewed and that work to implement the strategy “will continue in parallel with work to prepare the IIA (Island Impact Assessment)” rather than be deferred.
Commenting on the responses, Mr McArthur said:
“This is a remarkable assertion by the Transport Secretary, which shows a blatant disregard for the provisions of the Islands Act. If a major procurement process can be allowed to continue before any island impact assessment is completed, it rather suggests that Ministers have little interest in what that assessment might conclude.
“At a time when the future shape of air travel is so uncertain, at the very least Ministers and HIAL should be taking stock. Instead, both seem entirely happy to press on as if nothing has happened.
“No-one disputes the need for investment in modernising air traffic control services at airports across the region. Yet, plans to centralise services was always recognised as the most risky and costly of the options available. In light of current restrictions, the island impact assessment offered the perfect opportunity to review this decision.
“Sadly, the Scottish Government and HIAL have chosen to pass up that opportunity, while also doing little to inspire confidence amongst islanders about the value of the Islands Act”.