HIAL ‘displaying gross lack of ambition for islands’

Donald Cameron at Stornoway Airport.
Donald Cameron at Stornoway Airport.

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Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has hit out at HIAL’s ‘lack of ambition for the islands’ over plans for the centralisation of air traffic control services and that Benbecula Airport is to be downgraded.

Benbecula will be downgraded to an Aerodrome Flight Information Service (AFIS), resulting in a loss of jobs and an inability to grow air services on the island.

Together with a loss of jobs at Stornoway as a result of centralising air traffic control in Inverness, there could be a loss of up to 20 jobs in the islands, a significant number of skilled jobs in an Island location.

The comhairle has called on Scottish Government to intervene. Comhairle leader Roddie Mackay said: ‘This is not an attitude or approach we would expect from a Scottish Government-owned company.’

Councillor Uisdean Robertson, comhairle chairman of transportation and infrastructure, added: ‘It seems to me that HIAL are looking at Stornoway and Benbecula airports as burdens rather than assets. They are intent on running them down with the resultant loss of employment.

‘This displays an incredible lack of ambition for the future of air services to and from the islands. We should be looking at how these assets can be grown and developed to best serve the communities of the islands.

‘I will be writing to the minister highlighting that is against the principles of community empowerment and the Islands Act. Centralisation of services and jobs is entirely contrary to what island authorities have been working towards over the past few years and indeed is completely at odds with the Islands Act.

‘I will be calling for an Islands Impact Assessment, in line with island proofing, to be carried out on the implications of these shortsighted measures for our communities. I will be calling upon ministers to ensure that agencies like HIAL grow their staff headcount in our islands not remove valuable jobs and families from our communities.’

Politicians across the Highlands and Islands last week voiced concern over HIAL’s plans, including Donald Cameron MSP, Angus MacNeil MP and Michael Russell MSP.