Orkney's MSP, Liam McArthur, has today (Wednesday) criticised the Transport Minister’s refusal to meet with elected representatives opposed to HIAL's plans to centralise air traffic services.
In September, a cross party group of Highlands & Islands MSPs, MPs, council leaders, community members and trade unionists wrote to the Scottish Government calling on Ministers to engage in discussions to find an alternative to the centralisation proposals. SNP Transport Minister, Graeme Dey has now refused that request.
In March, HIAL’s own Island Impact Assessment into the proposals identified a series of “negative” and "significantly negative” impacts for islands communities, notably the loss of "high quality employment" and salaries from the local economy. A Digital Scotland report this summer also rated the plans as "amber-red" due to concerns over the deliverability of necessary infrastructure.
Responding, Mr McArthur said:
"It is disappointing that the Minister is unwilling to engage constructively with this cross-party group of elected representatives.
"The Scottish Government has consistently refused to listen to the concerns of local island communities and air traffic control staff. This is despite HIAL's own island impact assessment exposing the negative impact this centralisation will have on the communities most directly affected.
“While discussions between HIAL and trade unions on alternative proposals are ongoing, it is important that Ministers recognise the need to change course. Refusing to meet with local representatives of the communities affected suggests the Scottish Government is still intent on sticking its head in the sand."