McArthur calls for Audit Scotland to investigate HIAL centralisation project


Orkney's MSP, Liam McArthur, has reiterated his call for a proper audit into HIAL's proposals to centralise air traffic control services.

Speaking at the Public Petitions Committee earlier today, Mr McArthur backed the concerns raised by the petitioners calling for a halt to HIAL's Air Traffic Management Scheme (ATMS).  Orkney's MSP said an investigation by Audit Scotland would be "entirely sensible and reasonable" given the "very real concern" over the cost to the public purse.

HIAL abandoned plans to centralise air traffic services earlier this year after an agreement was reached with trade union, Prospect.  It was subsequently revealed that ATMS has costed £9 million, with over £220,000 spent on the remote towers project and more than £530,000 spent on professional/consultancy fees.

Mr McArthur has led opposition to the centralisation plans and has repeatedly spoken in support of the petition lodged in 2020 by Alasdair MacEachen, John Doig and constituent, Peter Henderson.  The petition remains under active consideration by the Citizen Participation and Public Petitions Commitee, who are expected to take evidence from HIAL at their next meeting in June.

Commenting afterwards, Mr McArthur said:

"The unravelling of the Scottish Government's ferries fiasco has demonstrated once again the risks associated with large scale public procurements.

"In that context, Audit Scotland has provided a damming report into what has gone wrong with the purchase of two ferries that remain overdue by five years and over budget by at least £150m.

"To date, however, Audit Scotland has not been invited to consider what went wrong with HIAL’s plans to centralise air traffic services, despite obvious parallels.  Although, the remote towers project has now been abandoned, concerns remain about how long it took HIAL and SNP Ministers to accept it was unworkable and the cost to the public purse.

"While the immediate threat of job losses has been lifted, it would be entirely reasonable to expect a proper audit of ATMS to uncover whether due process was carried out.  Ultimately, there has been no reckoning for those responsible over a project that was doomed from the outset as the riskiest option for modernising air traffic services.

"An audit into the handling of this process is the very least that staff and local communities in the Highlands and Islands deserve."


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