HIAL Displaying Gross Lack of Ambition for Islands

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has hit out at HIAL’s lack of ambition for the Islands displayed in their announcement that plans for the centralization of Air Traffic Control services are proceeding and that Benbecula Airport is to be downgraded.

It was announced yesterday that Benbecula will be downgraded to an Aerodrome Flight Information Service (AFIS) resulting in a loss of jobs and an inability to grow air services in Benbecula.

Together with a loss of jobs at Stornoway as a result of centralizing Air Control services in Inverness, there could be a loss of up to 20 jobs in the Islands, a significant number of skilled jobs in an Island location.

The Comhairle has called on Scottish Government to intervene. Comhairle Leader Roddie Mackay said: “This is not an attitude or approach we would expect from a Scottish Government owned company.”

Cllr Uisdean Robertson, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s Chair of Transportation and Infrastructure, said: “It seems to me that HIAL are looking at Stornoway and Benbecula Airports as burdens rather than assets. They are intent on running them down with the resultant loss of employment.  This displays an incredible lack of ambition for the future of air services to and from the Islands. We should be looking at how these assets can be grown and developed to best serve the communities of the Islands. I will be writing to the Minister highlighting that is against the principles of Community empowerment and the Islands Act. Centralization of services and jobs is entirely contrary to what Island authorities have been working towards over the past few years and indeed is completely at odds with the Islands Act. I will be calling for an Islands Impact Assessment, in line with Island proofing, to be carried out on the implications of these shortsighted measures for our communities. I will be calling upon Ministers to ensure that agencies like HIAL grow their staff headcount in our islands not remove valuable jobs and families from our communities.”

Cllr Robertson also highlighted that safety and resilience were at risk of being comprised under the proposed measures for centralization. He said:  ”Anyone who has seen the weather this week in Benbecula and Stornoway will know that systems and technology could be at risk.  I will be contacting the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, Michael Matheson. I also propose to meet with my counterparts in Shetland and Orkney who share similar concerns.

Our communities have extreme Transport challenges ahead. Our ferry services have deteriorated because of ill thought through decision making made by mainland based management. It is sad that HIAL is making the same mistake.

HIAL are putting their own priorities and dogma way above the needs of their customers and partners. Taxpayers money is being spent on a needless vanity project. It is utterly unacceptable in this day and age for a publicly funded body to behave in this high handed way.”