Island politicians are calling for caution over proposed air traffic control changes.
Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron is supporting calls for a debate in Parliament on plans to centralise air traffic control in the region, which would lead to air traffic controllers removed from airports and replaced with a single ‘remote’ tower in Inverness.
Mr Cameron has supported a motion by Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart which aims to hold a Member’s Business debate on the changes which are being proposed by Highlands and Islands Airport Limited (HIAL).
The Scottish Conservative MSP, a regular user of HIAL services in the region, said: “Airports like Barra, Benbecula and Stornoway in the Western Isles, and Campbeltown, Islay and Tiree in Argyll and Bute, are crucial parts of our transport infrastructure.
“As HIAL is wholly owned by the Scottish Government, I wish to hear a justification directly from the minister for these proposals which have caused so much concern, not least from HIAL employees.
“It is vitally important that changes of this nature are subject to thorough scrutiny. The focus should be on providing a better service rather than just saving money.
“The Scottish Government’s track record on our ferry service has left much to be desired and I wish to ensure that they don’t make a hash of our air links as well.”
And Isles MP Angus MacNeil is also expressing concerns about proposed changes to air traffic control (ATC) in the Islands. HIAL propose to centralise air traffic control services in Inverness by using ‘remote towers’.
Angus MacNeil MP said: “HIAL have named this high risk and costly option as ‘remote towers’ when in actual fact it is the centralisation of air traffic control meaning high-value island jobs going to Inverness.
“The Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament committees, particularly the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee should be scrutinising this proposal line-by-line because it has huge implications not only for transport but for the community in the Western Isles.
“We know that air traffic control has a difficulty with recruitment and retention, but this is not the case in the island areas – when they recruit locally, they do retain locally.
“There is a huge risk that if air traffic control is centralised in Inverness that all air traffic controllers could be lost from Inverness as they are in demand globally and we would find ourselves without air traffic control anywhere in the HIAL network.
“This is an ill-conceived proposal which HIAL has somehow taken regardless of the warning voices from everyone else.”