Letters:What HIAL “propose is incoherent”


Dear Orkney News,

I read your articles in the Orkney News, and you make a compelling case.

I have good friends in Benbecula who are ATCOs and am aware of some of the background to HIAL’s attempt to remotely site ATCO operations in Inverness.

The importance of relatively well paid jobs in rural areas (particularly in the Highlands and Islands) cannot be overstated, it may to city dwellers be ‘just a handful of jobs’ but we who understand the countryside, know full well this isn’t just about numbers.

I was part of a fight to save the missile range in South Uist from a similar attempt to operate its primary functions (such as radars, tracking and telemetry from Aberporth in mid-Wales), one of the key factors crucial to our success was finding out that QinetiQ Ltd hadn’t fully revealed the technical problems (and consequently the full cost) of what they were doing to the MoD.

QinetiQ’s motivation was to centralise the operation of the ranges, to reduce the number of staff (which proved a false argument on close inspection) , and there were also the personal motivations of certain senior managers who were looking for pay and promotion from their ‘delivery of a large project’.

Whilst there are some parallels with the remote operation of the range, what is unclear in the case of HIAL is their motivation, what they propose is incoherent (downgrading some airports from ATCO to AFISO, and yet demanding fully controlled airspace in others.

It is also unclear whether they will actually save any money with what they propose since there are so few details of the cameras, maintenance schedules (particularly with regard to the tough, marine environment which many of the remote towers would be sited in), and how they will ensure fault free, fully reliable data links etc.

One of their motivations is centralisation but that is an ideological, rather than a technical of financial motivation, modern management do distrust skilled, capable people, who spurn (what the managers see as) the attractions of the city!

It occurs to me that this aim to move to remote operations has come with the public ownership of HIAL, I wonder if it would be worth talking to some of the previous board members (Here is the link to the Company House listhttps://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SC117882/officers) who might have some insight into what the current board of HIAL are motivated by.

There is something troubling about the perceived lack of interest from the Minister of Transport in particular and the Scottish Government in general, since HIAL has been supported by public money, though it is not a fully public organisation, the tax payers have a clear right to know why their money is being used to bring redundancies to areas of the country were employment is already marginal.

If I can help you in any way, I will do. I have in the past put in several FoI requests about HIAL but they have proved less the enlightening.

Yours, Ian Tamm,  Worcestershire

Wick airport by JThomas

Wick Airport credit: J Thomas

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