Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant has written to Audit Scotland asking them to examine centralisation plans for air traffic control.
A petition lodged in May 2020 is calling on the Scottish government to halt the project put forward by Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (Hial) until an independent assessment can be undertaken.
Since its initial proposal in 2017, Hial’s plans to centralise Air Traffic Control in Inverness have come under increasing criticism for a lack of transparency and lack of consideration of the risks and costs of the project.
Mrs Grant said: “The representations that Hial is putting forward to the committee are clearly not in the spirit of transparency or working in the interests of communities.
“Hial is all smoke and mirrors and is relying on a lot of technical speak to cover the fact that this project is not well thought through, not cost effective and is being pushed forward as a matter of stubbornness. As soon as you start to pull at the thread of Hial’s argument it all comes apart.
“It has also become increasingly clear that Hial is not willing to properly engage on this matter; with it’s staff; with the communities it is there to serve; and nor, it’s abysmal performance in front of the Petitions Committee would suggest, with the Scottish government or those trying to exercise accountability.
“So I have written to Audit Scotland laying out the risk and cost concerns of the project and asking them to step in and compel some actual detail and honesty about the project.
“It is simply not acceptable that a Government agency, one which is there to serve and support our most rural and fragile communities, is being so bull-headed and determined to strip those communities of its lifeline assets at a greater cost than it would take to invest in them, and make no mistake, that’s exactly what this will do.”
Mrs Grant Continued: “As well as removing urgently needed jobs, and families who are invested in these communities, the ATMS plans will leave a less resilient lifeline service.”
Hial’s managing director Inglis Lyon said: “We appreciate that a programme of this magnitude and complexity will bring significant change for people, not least our highly valued air traffic control colleagues.
“However, there are no alternative proposals for air traffic services that provide the all-encompassing solution of HIAL’s current Air Traffic Management Strategy (ATMS). Unless we modernise and move forward with it, we cannot guarantee air connectivity for the Highlands and Islands into the future.
“The ATMS aims to provide a foundation stone to address industry-wide structural deficits which, if left unaddressed, will compromise our lifeline activities and the airline customers that provide them.”