‘A Pandora’s Box of Unnecessary Risks’ HIAL’s Remote Towers Project

Orkney Islands Council has asked for a pause in Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd’s (HIAL) controversial Remote Towers Project.

At a Special General Meeting of OIC on Tuesday 23rd of March Councillor Dawson, described the project as a ‘pandora’s box of unnecessary risks’ and ‘not convincingly justified.’

His motion to pause the project and to seek an urgent meeting with Scottish Government Ministers was seconded by Councillor Sankey of the Orkney Greens who said that HIAL had a ‘blind carry on at all costs mentality.’

The Remote Towers Project by HIAL will see highly skilled well paid jobs removed from the islands to a centralised control base in a building in Inverness. Air traffic control will be conducted using remote systems totally reliant on digital connectivity.

Addressing the meeting, which was conducted virtually, Councillor Sankey said:

“Members we have the worst connectivity in the UK by far so how does HIAL mean to overcome this? I personally have not been convinced that safety aspects reliant on digital connectivity in particular can be met.”

“My personal concerns relate to the potential negative impacts on sectors of our economy, especially tourism worth £70m and renewables which is our very future. We may even struggle with our own wind farm proposals if HIAL renews its recent blanket objections to onshore turbine applications in Orkney.”

A petition which was brought before the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee brought the issue to the fore. Since then HIAL, which is a public company wholly owned by Scottish Government Ministers continues to have the full support of the Scottish Government.

No islanders are members of the HIAL Board and another petition by islanders on Uist has now been lodged (24th March) with the Public Petitions Committee Islanders Raise Petition to Secure Representation on Public Boards

The Impact Assessment conducted retrospectively to the HIAL plans stated that there would be a ‘very significant negative impact’ in a range of areas.

A paper prepared for OIC councillors by officials recommended :

that the Scottish Government be approached to delay implementation of the project until further work and consideration of the consequences of the proposals have been undertaken

The text of the motion states:

“Orkney Islands Council notes with extreme concern the findings of the independent Islands impact assessment carried out for HIAL on the proposed centralisation of their Air Traffic Management System.The report states that HIAL’s proposals will have ‘very significant’ negative impacts for Orkney. It is time for the Scottish Government to demonstrate that the requirements of the Islands Act are more than mere words on paper.

Island communities impact assessments are carried out for a purpose and their findings must be valued and respected.

Orkney Islands Council therefore calls on the Scottish Government to require HIAL to pause these proposals in order to give proper consideration to the findings of the Islands Impact Assessment and as a first step asks that the Scottish Government convene as a matter of urgency a meeting with Orkney Islands Council, HIAL and the relevant government ministers.”

You can listen to the Special General Meeting here: https://soundcloud.com/orkney-islands-council/oic-special-general-meeting-of-the-council-23-march-2021

The move by OIC follows on from a motion passed by Shetland Islands Council: Council motion calls for air traffic control project to be paused

Industrial Action to ramp up due to HIALs’ Remote Towers Project

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