Orkney’s MSP, Liam McArthur, has again challenged the Scottish Government’s support of HIAL’s plans to centralise air traffic control services in light of a recent report highlighting significant negative economic impacts on the islands.
During Portfolio Questions (Thursday), Mr McArthur drew attention to HIAL’s own island impact assessment that found that centralisation would result in the loss to Orkney of more than 16 FTE jobs and £650,000 in gross salaries.
Mr McArthur asked the Economy Secretary, Fiona Hyslop whether she believed this was consistent with any commitment from the Scottish Government to supporting jobs in island communities.
In response, Ms Hyslop claimed that any decision being taken needed to balance the need to modernise services with any possible impact on local economies, but that she would raise the matter with the Transport Secretary.
Afterwards, Mr McArthur commented:
“The argument that the only way to modernise air traffic control services is to centralise them is not credible.
“No-one disputes the need for modernisation but other options are available that would avoid the damaging loss of jobs and income to our islands or the risk of destabilising our lifeline air services.
“Ministers like to boast about having introduced island impact assessments. However, for those assessments to mean anything they need to inform policy and decisions. Where they identify numerous and serious negative economic impacts, as in this case, they can’t simply be ignored without undermining all credibility in the process or any claim the government might have about supporting jobs in our island communities.”