Transport Chiefs in the Western Isles have highlighted that HIAL were offered a sensible, safer and better value for money option by their own consultants in the ongoing dispute about centralising air traffic control services.
The comments follow a debate in the Scottish Parliament last week on a motion condemning the proposals by Shetland MSP, Beatrice Wishart. Widespread support was expressed by Highlands and Islands MSPs.
HIAL’s proposals also now include downgrading Benbecula Airport to an Aerodrome Flight Information Service (AFIS). The Comhairle has previously criticised the move as a lack of ambition on HIAL’s part.
Comhairle Leader Roddie Mackay said: “The Scottish Government need to reflect where they are being led by HIAL and reconsider where this is going. At the moment what is being proposed will result in a waste of tax payers’ money. Why are HIAL pursuing this option when they were offered a perfectly sensible, safer and better value option by their own consultants? Indeed the consultants, Helios identified HIAL’s preferred option as the riskiest and costliest option and there are alternative options for modernisation.”
Cllr Uisdean Robertson, the Comhairle’s Chairman of Transportation and Infrastructure, said: “HIAL is a public company wholly owned by Scottish Ministers, similar to the management arrangements for Cal-Mac and CMAL. No one needs reminded of how poor decisions on ferry provision has resulted in ferry chaos for Island communities. One would have expected that more due diligence would be exercised in ensuring that the same thing did not happen to our air services. However, it appears that no lessons have been learnt.
“Once again we are seeing a mainland based, Government owned company taking decisions which detrimentally affect those of us who live in the Islands. Centralisation is not the way ahead and is certainly not in line with the Islands Act, Island proofing and community empowerment. Instead we are going down an ill-advised route that will result in an expensive service for the Islands at great and unnecessary cost and a downgrading of Benbecula Airport costing jobs in an area in which we should all be working to grow the economy. I would urge the Cabinet Secretary to listen to those who HIAL purport to serve. And if HIAL need reminding of who that is – the clue is in their name – Highlands and Islands Airports.”