Orkney's MSP, Liam McArthur, has welcomed the decision by the Citizen Participation and Public Petitions Committee to continue its work on a petition calling for the Scottish Government to halt HIAL's Air Traffic Management Strategy (ATMS).
Speaking at a meeting of the Committee this morning, Mr McArthur said serious questions remain over HIAL's "calamitous" handling of ATMS with ongoing concern HIAL may "dust down" centralisation proposals five years down the line.
Back in 2018, HIAL launched its ATMS plans which would have seen air traffic controllers removed from airports across the region and replaced with a single, ‘remote’ tower based in Inverness. Last week, an "alternative delivery" of ATMS was agreed between HIAL and Prospect which will retain air traffic controllers in the isles. Questions remain, however, regarding the company’s modernisation strategy and the significant costs already incurred in the failed centralisation bid.
Mr McArthur has led opposition to the centralisation plans and has repeatedly supported the petition lodged in 2020 by Alasdair MacEachen, John Doig and Peter Henderson.
Commenting afterwards, Mr McArthur said:
"I welcome the Committee's decision to keep this petition open and the issue under review. While the immediate threat of job losses has been lifted, recent announcements by HIAL have given rise to more questions than answers.
"No-one disputes the need to modernise air traffic services, but having insisted that centralisation was the only viable option, it's not now clear what HIAL's strategy is. Even the CAA has called into question some of the assumptions being made by HIAL about what might be feasible.
"Meanwhile, HIAL has managed to spend millions of pounds of public money on a project that was doomed from the outset. This includes the purchase of a building in Inverness for £3.6m that is now surplus to requirements.
"Hopefully the Committee can get to the bottom of how things have been allowed to go so badly wrong. HIAL also needs to remove any possibility of the remote tower proposals making a reappearance in future.
"The needless uncertainty created by these botched proposals has done nothing for staff morale. To start turning this around, HIAL must now commit to a programme of local recruitment. This has proved successful in past in addressing issues of staff retention that HIAL used as an excuse to justify centralisation."