Island Communities rely on both ferry and air to provide lifeline links. That is why Transport is always in the top 3 of any issues raised during and between elections. It is, therefore, mystifying that when a fundamental change is to take place to the delivery of air services that the Scottish Government Transport Minister, Graeme Dey, does not engage with anyone – even elected politicians from his own political party.
Last month a cross party group of Highlands & Islands MSPs, MPs, council leaders, community members and trade unionists wrote to the Scottish Government raising their concerns over Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd’s (HIAL) deeply unpopular project to centralise air traffic control in Inverness. Orkney and the other islands would lose their air traffic controllers and the service would be provided remotely using untried technology.
The letter from all the main political parties called on Ministers in the Scottish Government to engage in discussions to find an alternative to the centralisation proposals. It was a sign of hope, of a way to find a route through this crisis for air services in the islands. “significant unanswered questions” About HIAL’s Remote Towers: Letter to Scottish Transport Minister
Graeme Dey has now refused that request.
Liam McArthur, LibDem MSP for the Orkney Constituency said:
“It is disappointing that the Minister is unwilling to engage constructively with this cross-party group of elected representatives.
“The Scottish Government has consistently refused to listen to the concerns of local island communities and air traffic control staff. This is despite HIAL’s own island impact assessment exposing the negative impact this centralisation will have on the communities most directly affected.
“While discussions between HIAL and trade unions on alternative proposals are ongoing, it is important that Ministers recognise the need to change course. Refusing to meet with local representatives of the communities affected suggests the Scottish Government is still intent on sticking its head in the sand.”
Related link: ‘Early Days’ but ‘Hopeful’ HIAL & Prospect Negotiations