Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant has reacted to the decision yesterday, 17th November, by a committee of the Scottish Parliament to keep a watchful brief on HIAL’s Remote Towers Project.
Rhoda Grant said:
“It is widely believed that HIAL are not looking for a meaningful solution that does not involve remote towers.
“Remote Towers has not been ruled out at any of the other airports. They are merely being postponed for up to 5 years by HIAL in the hope that the problems dogging the project will be resolved by then.
“Delays will only drive up the costs involved.
“HIAL want to downgrade Wick and Benbecula airports from an Air Traffic Control Service to a Flight Information Service. The impact on the community served by Benbecula will be profound and Wick will suffer a drop in traffic and may have difficulty finding an airline to operate the proposed PSO routes.”
Rhoda Grant said that a petitioner had described the plans as a “juggernaut yet it rolls on leaving damage in its wake.”
The petition has been considered six times since it was first lodged in March 2020, and despite HIAL’s recent announcement that it would review it’s plans in 5 years, the cross party committee agreed to keep the petition open due to concerns raised by petitioners, Rhoda Grant and Liam Macarthur MSP, LibDem.
It also agreed to approach airport operators, including local flight clubs to ascertain their views on the project. It also agreed to ask HIAL what alternative options it was looking at, to ensure that robust consideration was being given to alternative proposals.
Rhoda Grant continued:
“Despite HIAL kicking their ATMS plans into the long grass to try and take some of the heat and energy out of the oppositional arguments, I’m relieved that the committee will continue to keep an eye on what is going on.
“It is a shambles of monumental proportions – one which is costing time, and money and not even meeting the actual requirements of the CAA, let alone those of communities.
“What’s worse is that they’ve been warned about this for years and still tried to bulldoze it through. Once they discovered brute force wouldn’t work they’re now trying the sneaky route round.
“I can guarantee that they have seriously underestimated the communities of the Highlands and Islands if they think that will work.”