10th April 2020
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Island authorities unite to call a halt to air traffic control proposals

Shetland Islands Council has joined with the other island authorities of Orkney and Western Isles in a call for a moratorium on plans to centralise air traffic control services.

The three island groups have made the request following the decision by Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (Hial) to move forward with plans to move air traffic control services from Sumburgh to Inverness.

The controversial move was debated in the Scottish parliament last week, where they were condemned by Highland and Island MSPs.

HIAL is a public company wholly owned by the very Scottish ministers who have been asked to intervene in the proposals. Warnings have been made that jobs could be lost in the islands.

Hial’s managing director Inglis Lyon last month told The Shetland Times it had no plans to pay anyone off, but admitted he hoped staff would relocate to the Highland capital where necessary.

An unattributed statement sent on behalf of the three island groups stated: “All three island councils are of the view that, in line with legislation under the Islands Act, a full Islands Communities Impact Assessment should be carried out before any more work is carried out on the centralization of ATC services.

“Not only would the centralisation of these services lose skilled island jobs, they could also curtail the future development of the island Airports.

“Centralisation of services and jobs is entirely contrary to what island authorities have been working towards over the past few years in terms of growing Island economies.

“We believe there are other options which should be more fully explored, such as those that Hial’s own consultants previously highlighted.

“In the meantime it is imperative that the centralisation process is halted to assess the true impact this will have on our island communities”.

The airport authority said in a statement: “Hial’s continued priority is to provide air services, particularly vital lifeline services, to our island communities.

“However, we face a number of significant challenges that could affect our ability to continue to deliver our service into the future.

“We require a long-term solution that will address challenges including staff recruitment and retention, provide resilience at our airports, meet impending regulatory requirements and assure air navigation service delivery well into the future.

“Our Air Traffic Management Strategy (ATMS) aims to address these challenges.

“Hial will always do all that it can to ensure the longevity of air services to the islands and has committed to undertaking an island and community impact assessment as part of an ongoing consultative process.

“We continue to maintain open dialogue with our colleagues and stakeholders as we undertake this significant change management process.”

About Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor has worked as a reporter since 1995, and has been at The Shetland Times since 2007, covering a wide variety of news topics. Before then he reported for other newspapers in the Highlands, where he was raised, and in Fife, where he began his career with DC Thomson. He also has experience in broadcast journalism with Grampian Television. He has lived in Shetland since 2002, where he harbours an unhealthy interest in old cars and motorbikes.

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