Carmichael welcomes scrapping of HIAL centralisation plan

Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has welcomed confirmation today that procurement for HIAL’s proposed centralisation of air traffic control from the isles has been scrapped. In response to parliamentary questions lodged by Liberal Democrat MSP for Orkney, Liam McArthur, the Transport Minister, Graeme Dey confirmed that HIAL has contacted companies involved in the Remote Tower procurement “to confirm that the tender exercise had been cancelled”.

The Minister also admitted that millions of pounds have been spent on HIAL's Air Traffic Management Strategy (ATMS), since it was launched in January 2018. ATMS included plans which would have seen air traffic controllers removed from airports across the region and replaced with a single tower based in Inverness.

HIAL’s own assessments of the plans suggested many "negative" and "significantly negative" impacts on island communities, notably the loss of "high quality employment" and salaries from the local economy. A Digital Scotland report also rated the plans as "amber-red" due to concerns over the deliverability of necessary infrastructure.

Mr Carmichael said:

“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 first to know exactly how many millions have been tossed away in the pursuit of this flawed exercise. We need to know if or when HIAL intends to restart centralisation should it have another opportunity in the future.

“Above all we need to reflect on how this sorry state of affairs came to be in the first place. Retreat on the centralisation plan is only a temporary fix of the underlying problem. HIAL is supposed to be accountable and responsive to the needs of the entire Highlands and Islands and it is clearly not living up to that aspiration. If we are to avoid another similar fiasco in the future then we need to look at further reform to ensure that our communities are heard on the board of HIAL.”

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