HIAL suffers two-pronged attack from MSPs

The Sumburgh Airport control tower.

HIGHLANDS and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) has been accused of wasting £18,000 of public money on a study about where to base its proposed new remote air traffic control system.

The government-owned airport operator has also been criticised for offering promotional free parking at Inverness Airport to passengers flying to Jersey when a £3-a-day fee looms for users of Sumburgh Airport.


The jabs came this week as Green MSP John Finnie attacked HIAL on its air traffic control study and Shetland MSP Tavish Scott lambasted it over car parking.

Highlands and Islands list member Finnie said the £18,602 paid to consultants EKOS to carry out a scoping study on why Inverness should be the preferred location for a remote towers control centre was a waste of money because it was always expected to be built there.

Scottish Greens MSP John Finnie. Photo: Chris Cope/Shetland News

“It is beggars belief that such a sum was spent stating the obvious,” he said.

“Instead of spending thousands of pounds telling us what we already know, it would serve HIAL better if it listened to the expert air traffic controllers, and their trade union Prospect, and ensured that these important, skilled jobs remain in communities throughout the Highlands and Islands.”


In response, HIAL said that over an estimated 10-year period the project will cost approximately £28 million of public money and it is “important key decisions are based upon transparent and objective information”.

“The rationale for the consultation is made clear within the scoping study, as is the feedback from all those already consulted,” a spokesman added.

“Mr Finnie has been included in all correspondence and updates and is in receipt of the report. We would, of course, be very happy to discuss further with Mr Finnie at a time of his convenience.”


Meanwhile, Tavish Scott attacked the “incompetent” HIAL for offering free parking at Inverness for people booking flights through JerseyTravel before the end of August while a parking charge is on the horizon in Shetland.

“[HIAL] are not a fit organisation to run our airports,” he said.

“Their policy is impose car parking charges at airports where there are no alternative to lifeline air travel. But at Inverness, where there are other travel options, they offer free parking. What a typical shambles.

Shetland MSP Tavish Scott.

“Few islanders have any faith in this organisation. And the SNP government have done absolutely nothing to help the islands. So much for the Islands Bill or islands proofing policy.”

A HIAL spokesman said in response to Scott that the Inverness arrangement is “designed to help build a sustainable route portfolio for the airport and thus provide more choice for the residents of the Highlands and Islands”.

“The use of incentives to help develop business is in line with industry norms,” he said, adding that the promotion runs for one and a half months.

HIAL had originally planned to introduce car parking charges at Sumburgh from 1 July in addition to Kirkwall and Stornoway.

But it still has not come into force at Sumburgh following a negotiations with Shetland Islands Council over road safety and planning issues.

HIAL said on Wednesday that discussions are still ongoing with the local authority.