The tender exercise for the controversial remote tower technology being progressed by Highlands and Islands Airports Limited has been cancelled, a Scottish government minister has confirmed.
The move has halted the centralisation plans of air traffic control – which would have seen air traffic control operated from Inverness rather than Sumburgh.
The cost of the air traffic management strategy – up to 30th November – is £9million.
Transport minister Graeme Dey said: “Hial’s Air Traffic Management 2030 Strategy (ATMS) is a long-term programme consisting of numerous different individual projects.
“Some of these projects include one or more procurement exercises. Across the programme as a whole some procurement exercises have concluded, some are ongoing and some have not started yet.
“Following the announcement of the joint agreement between HIAL and Prospect [Union] to establish a new way forward, Hial contacted those companies involved in the remote tower procurement to confirm that the tender exercise had been cancelled.
“Hial felt it would be inappropriate and unfair to expect tenderers to remain engaged in the procurement process in circumstances where the timescale for, and scope and extent of possible future remote air traffic provision is unclear.”
Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart said: “I am pleased that the centralising remote tower procurement tender exercise has now been cancelled.
“Hial is wholly owned by Scottish Ministers but its handling of this project makes me question the reality of its company values.
“Not only has it cost the public purse millions of pounds, it has damaged relations with staff and local communities.
“I had concerns about safety, connectivity and the loss of skilled jobs from Shetland under this proposal.
“Staff at Hial, passengers and opponents of the Scottish Government’s centralisation plans have been pawns in this saga.
“We need modern, robust infrastructure for safe lifeline air services, not distractions like the proposed vanity remote tower project.
“The Scottish Government must now listen seriously to voices on the ground to develop the best plan and future-proof airports in Hial’s network.”
MP Alistair Carmichael added: “It appears that the costly and unnecessary centralisation plan has ended for now, not with a bang but with a whimper. Despite Hial’s prolonged campaign of derision and dismissal against local people concerned about the risk posed to safety and to our local economies, I am glad that some measure of common sense has broken out.
“Even so this can only be claimed as a partial victory. We need to know if or when Hial intends to restart centralisation should it have another opportunity in the future.”