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Safety, jobs and prosperity at risk in new Highland airports report

Safety, jobs and prosperity at risk in new Highland airports report

Air traffic controllers (ATC) union Prospect yesterday raised significant concerns about proposals by lifeline service provider Highlands and Islands Airports Limited to remove air traffic controllers from airports across the Highlands and Islands

Prospect is concerned that the move will impact safety, cause job losses and have a major impact on local economies.

Prospect aviation officer in Scotland David Avery said: “This is a substantial report and the union and our members will be studying it in detail over the coming days. Prospect will engage with HIAL to consider the potential impact of any change on staff and protect members jobs.

"As a union we understand that HIAL has a significant challenge in recruiting and retaining controllers, but we see nothing in the report which we believe will address the cause of the issue, which is much more related to pay and conditions”

The report comes as the company looks at new investment to upgrade ageing infrastructure, and was commissioned from the Helios Consultancy.

Avery continued: “Prospect supports HIALs need to modernise its infrastructure to keep up pace with regulations and that this will require significant investment. However, any centralised monitoring system will be dependent on a reliable, resilient and secure communications infrastructure between the mainland and the island which simply does not exist. HIAL are gambling on this, and Prospect believes this is gambling with people's safety.

"Air Traffic Control provides high quality skilled, highly paid employment in the islands with many controllers recruited and trained locally. Centralisation will remove these roles from the islands. We do not believe the report has given sufficient weight to these considerations and HIAL roles as an employer in the Highlands and Island.

"By Helios' own admission the cost estimate of £123m for implementing remote towers is conservative and with significant risks to implementation. However, the board has backed this option over less costly models with fewer risks because of benefits which may never be realised. We will consult further with our members on the detail in the report but there is a clear preference amongst staff for maintaining a local provision rather than a central one.

"HIAL are proposing to completely change the model of air travel. We believe that given the level of expenditure this should be subject to public consultation and scrutiny. We will be writing to MSP and the Minister for Transport and the Islands seeking a meeting.”


Contact Prospect Press Office: 0207 902 6707

1 – Prospect is the Union for Air Traffic Controllers in the United Kingdom with over 2000 members

2 – Highland and Islands Airports Limited is a wholly owned Scottish Government Company which operates lifeline airports across the Highlands and Islands of Scotland