SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Alasdair Allan, today welcomed apparent progress in the latest discussions between Highlands and Islands Airports (HIAL) and the Prospect Union around the future of air traffic control jobs.
HIAL and Prospect have this morning released a joint statement outlining their agreed framework for discussion to establish a new way forward for the implementation of HIAL’s air traffic management strategy (ATMS).
Prospect has agreed to suspend all industrial action while these talks continue.
Air traffic control jobs from Stornoway, Sumburgh, Kirkwall and Dundee had been due to be centralised to a remote tower centre in Inverness, with Benbecula and Wick John O’ Groats airports to be downgraded to Flight Information Services, despite widespread concerns about the removal of skilled jobs from rural communities.
The planned discussions between HIAL and Prospect will focus on the introduction of a surveillance programme across the HIAL network to be provided by a combined surveillance centre in Inverness, with air traffic services continuing to be provided locally at Stornoway, Sumburgh, Kirkwall and Dundee for the duration of the surveillance programme.
There will be a review at the end of the surveillance programme (or at five years, if that is sooner) of air traffic provision against a scope agreed by both HIAL and Prospect to inform the next steps of the programme. There will also be a phasing out of procedural air traffic control and the adoption of more modern and widely used techniques across HIAL’s network.
Further separate talks will take place regarding air traffic services at Benbecula and Wick John O’ Groats.
Commenting today, Alasdair Allan said: “I am pleased that HIAL have finally shown some willingness to compromise on the ATMS plans they originally proposed, which would have been damaging to the local economies and communities of the Western Isles.
“I hope that this next round of discussions will continue to move in the right direction and that air traffic control jobs at both Stornoway and Benbecula airports can be secured for the long-term. It is essential that jobs continue to be de-centralised if we are going to effectively tackle the issue of depopulation in our islands, and I am glad that today’s news brings us a step closer to reaching a solution.”