Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has welcomed the positive outcome of the Highlands and Islands Jobs Summit organised by Prospect today. MPs, MSPs and council representatives from all parties and none joined the meeting this afternoon to discuss next steps in countering attempts by Highlands and Islands Airports Limited to centralise jobs out of the isles and rural communities. Attendees agreed to continue working together to secure the best possible outcome for the Highlands and Islands. The group will continue to meet and will seek a collective meeting with Scottish government ministers.
Commenting after the meeting, Mr Carmichael said:
“This was an important meeting and I thank Prospect and my colleagues from all parties for helping to make it happen. We represented people of all parties and none but we were united in wanting better for our communities and the future of good quality jobs in the Highlands and Islands.
“We have to remember why HIAL was set up. It was because it was clear to everyone that the free market alone was not going to be sufficient and so a publicly owned company was needed, with a community ethos and understanding that this is about more than the transaction of services.
“HIAL as a company has lost its way. It has forgotten its social and community purpose and that is reflected in the makeup of their current board. It is reflected in its attempts to barrel down this course of action and attempt to take it too far, too fast to be unwound.
“We have to recognise that this is a political problem in need of a political solution because HIAL have made it clear that they will not change course without a political intervention. They simply do not believe that they have any social responsibility to the communities they serve.
“It’s time to leave the party rosettes at the door – and I am glad to say that this is what everyone participating has done. This is a problem that needs to be tackled by all of us acting on behalf of the Highlands and Islands and its people, and this is the moment when we must make the case for ministers to listen to the communities involved and change direction.”
Prospect negotiations officer David Avery said:
“The proposal to remove these highly skilled jobs from Highlands and Islands has united communities and politicians from all parties in opposition and that was reflected at this incredibly positive meeting.
“Prospect are extremely grateful to those who attended for the strength of feeling shown, it is clear that this is regarded as a major issue affecting the local economies of the Highlands and Islands.
“We will be seeking an early meeting with Scottish Government Ministers to ask that they engage fully with the concerns about this project and seriously consider alternative proposals that would retain jobs in these communities whilst enhancing safety and resilience.”