HIAL Boss Grilled on Remote Tower Spending

Inglis Lyon, the Managing Director of Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) faced questions from a group of MPs on the Westminster Scottish Affairs Committee about the costs of the Remote Towers Project.

It is so far estimated that HIAL’s modernisation plans have cost £9million. HIAL is wholly owned by Scottish Government Ministers. Inglis Lyon was unable, at the time of questioning, to inform MPs how much of the £9million spend was on the Remote Towers project centralising air traffic control in Inverness.

Inglis Lyon confirmed to the committee members that the tendering procurement process for the Remote Towers project had been cancelled whilst talks were still ongoing with the trade union representing air traffic controllers, Prospect. There is a cessation of industrial action whilst HIAL and Prospect try to reach a compromise on the project which would see the loss of air traffic controllers from the islands.

The project has been controversial since the start. An Islands Impact Assessment procured by HIAL raised many significant concerns with the project – the loss of highly skilled jobs, the wider community effects and the question of safety.

Inglis Lyon’s evidence to the Scottish Affairs Committee was interrupted several times by the failure of digital connectivity from his home base.

The evidence session of the Scottish Affairs Committee held on Tuesday 11th of January 2022 was continuing their work about Scottish airports. As well as Inglis Lyon representing the views of HIAL, the committee also heard from Gordon Dewar C.E. of Edinburgh Airport and Brian McClean Director of Communications and Sustainability at AGS Airports Ltd ( for Aberdeen and Glasgow)

All three contributors spoke of the impacts the Covid pandemic has on airport operations.

Inglis Lyon stressed that they had no job losses at HIAL due to Scottish Government funding and because they were delivering lifeline services.

At Aberdeen Brian McClean said that passenger numbers had dropped from 3million in 2019 to 1million in 2021, and at Glasgow there was a drop from 9million in 2019 to 2million in 2021. Many people had also lost their jobs.

It was a similar story at Edinburgh Airport. Gordon Dewar said that across the Edinburgh Airport ‘campus’ that there were 2,000 job losses

All three reported that retail outlets in the airports had suffered with many not re-opening and that passenger confidence was low. They said this was due to differences in responses and restrictions employed in the 4 nations of the UK to the pandemic.

There was a consensus that investment was needed for recovery and to address decarbonisation of the sector.

You can watch the evidence session here: https://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/46bae903-5e6f-4e32-a7fa-0e1097a4dd39#share

See also: HIAL’s Remote Tower Procurement Cancelled and “a great victory for People Power through the use of petitions and partnerships”

Fiona Grahame

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