Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has called for a halt to plans for the centralisation of air traffic control jobs in the Highlands and Islands.
He was speaking after meeting air traffic controllers in Stornoway and discussions with the leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Roddie MacKay, who briefed him on the issue.
The Remote Towers Project by Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd has been severely criticised including in their own commissioned Islands Impact Assessment. The safety of centralising control and relying on our connectivity links in the region was raised in a letter sent to the Scottish Government Transport Minister Graeme Dey by the European Transport Workers Federation which we reported on yesterday in The Orkney News. “Given the infancy of the technology, we find it difficult to assure these communities that that service can be provided in the event of bad weather, infrastructural damage or cyber-attack.’’- HIAL’S Remote Towers
Interestingly The Minister will be on an official visit to Orkney tomorrow with the HIAL Board where he will meet with Members of Orkney Islands Council. It’s not known if he will be meeting any of the air traffic controllers affected by HIAL’s centralisation plans. HIAL is a private company wholly owned by Scottish Government Ministers. The Remote Towers project has so far had the full support of the Ministers – despite the concerns raised by local MSPs and a committee of the Scottish Parliament. Petitions Committee Hears ‘Troubling Evidence Session’ Against HIAL’s Remote Towers
Scottish Labour has said that this issue, combined with the ongoing ferries fiasco, is ‘emblematic’ of the SNP’s failure to deliver for Scotland’s ‘’left behind’ island communities.
Anas Sarwar, who was on a two day visit to Lewis with his family, said:
“I find it shameful and astonishing that neither the Cabinet Secretary for Transport nor the Transport minister has been prepared to meet, listen and learn as I have done today.
“The air traffic controllers have very real concerns about safety issues and the reliability of services as well as wholly understandable concerns about keeping these jobs in island communities. Ministers are responsible for all of that and cannot remain in hiding, while HIAL management try to ram it through.
“I would like to hear any Minister try to reconcile this strategy of removing quality jobs from the islands, for entirely unproven benefits, with their supposed commitment to ‘island-proofing’ Scottish Government policies.
“What is abundantly clear is that this issue is emblematic of the SNP’s failure to deliver for Scotland’s left-behind island communities.
“From the ferry fiasco to the threat to air traffic control jobs, the SNP has failed these communities – this must end. “