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Labour's Torcuil Crichton has called on the Scottish Government to step in and resolve the pay claim by  airport workers to head off planned strike action due to close Western Isles airports for three days next week.

With no end to the dispute in sight the prospective candidate for Na h-Eileanan an Iar said Ministers and management must stop “passing the parcel” on a wage claim by staff working at Highlands and Islands Airports Limited.

Fire crews are due to take strike action in the week but Crichton warned the dispute was an "out of sight, out of mind" issue in Edinburgh.

HIAL management have already made clear they have no flexibility to negotiate without Ministers' consent.

Crichton said: "The logic of that is that Ministers must become directly involved".

Unite members have voted for strike action at Barra, Benbecula and Stornoway airports from Tuesday 21 to Tuesday 23 February as part of action across 11 Highland airports in an ongoing dispute over wages and conditions.

Prospect union are balloting separately on further industrial action which could affect essential flights to and from the islands.

The management at Highlands and Islands Airports (HIAL), which is wholly-owned by the Scottish Government, claims it has "maximised the flexibility within the Scottish Government's pay policy".

Meanwhile the Scottish Government simply urges the two sides to talk without acknowledging its own role in resolving the dispute.

Crichton said: “There is nothing to be gained by HIAL and Ministers passing the parcel on wage negotiations and leaving the Western Isles to suffer the economic consequences.”

“The danger is that because this is strike action which does not affect Edinburgh Ministers or mainland operators it will become a forgotten dispute, out of sight and out of mind.”

“With ferry services throughout the Western Isles already disrupted we cannot have airport closures adding to the islands’ winter of uncertainty.”

Crichton said worried islanders had already been in touch with him about the potential effects of strike action.

He said: “If the Western Isles airports close for three days, or even part of that time, it will have a massive knock-on impacts, from missing hospital appointments to lost job and business connections.”

“I am writing to Jenny Gilruth, the Scottish Transport Minister, urging her to get directly involved and to open the door to a negotiated settlement before strike action takes place.”\

The unions have previously called on the Scottish Government to meet with the them and HIAL after a five per cent offer was rejected by members in the Highlands and Islands. But Ministers  have not responded to these requests.

Mr Crichton added: "HIAL employees know that untold millions were squandered on the now-abandoned plans for air traffic control centralisation with full ministerial approval when money was no object. 

"They obviously wonder why the same Ministers cannot now face up to responsibility and become involved in resolving this dispute, instead of simply tying HIAL's hands".