An impact assessment report into plans to centralise air traffic control is “more damning than we could imagine”.
The strategy by Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (Hial) aims to introduce remote integrated air traffic control services for five airports – Inverness, Dundee, Stornoway, Kirkwall and Sumburgh.
The report outlines a range of likely negative impacts for the isles including population loss, reduced economic activity and lowered resilience of flight services from the plan.
The only significant positive outcomes found for Inverness, where services are to be centralised.
Hial says it has accepted the potential impacts on local employment, and has agreed with further recommendations to explore where more economic activity for island communities can be created.
The airport authority says it will commission an independent study to identify where that can be done, specifically, for Lewis, Orkney and Uist, as well as Shetland.
It has written to Shetland Islands Council to request meetings.
Isles MP Alistair Carmichael said: “The ATMS impact assessment is more damning than we could have imagined and confirms local suspicions that this plan will cause serious harm to our communities.
“It is clearer than ever that this project is going to take quality jobs out of the isles and move them to Inverness. That is cutting away money from our local economy, in exchange for no benefit for aviation safety.
“The report shows no positives for Orkney and Shetland, with a range of downsides from the economy to population loss to service resilience. The only significant benefits appear to go to Inverness.
“That may be convenient for Hial but it is an outrageous way to behave for any public body that is supposed to serve these communities. It is time for Hial to change course and listen to the overwhelming body of concerns about this project.”
Hial chairwoman Lorna Jack said: “The commissioning of the report demonstrates our commitment to listen and do everything we possibly can to mitigate any impacts. We want to work with colleagues and communities to find practical solutions.”