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Transport / SNP candidate urges HIAL to think about remote working

SNP candidate Tom Wills.

THE LOCAL SNP candidate for forthcoming Scottish Parliament election has urged government-owned Highland and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL) to be serious about relocating jobs based at its headquarters to island communities impacted by the move to centralise air traffic control services to a remote tower in Inverness.

Tom Wills said while accepting that change was coming anyway he was determined to see the project that would see the loss of 17 full-time equivalent jobs at Sumburgh Airport be modified to “protect local jobs”.

“The report does lay bare that there is a potential for much greater proportionate effect in Shetland than in some of the other communities, and as someone who is putting himself forward to become Shetland’s representative it is untenable for me to support this project in its current form,” he said.

HIAL chair Lorna Jack said on Friday that the airport operator had taken on board the recommendation from an islands impact assessment to work harder and to do more to mitigate against those job losses.

She said that there would be no reason not to relocate some of the office jobs at HIAL’s headquarter in Inverness to island communities.

“People’s perspective on home working has changed over recent months,” the SNP candidate said.

Wills, who works as a marine energy engineer for Nova Innovation, said the company’s tidal energy array in Bluemull Sound was controlled remotely from Edinburgh.

“So, I think, perhaps, when these plans [the relocation of the air traffic control service] were first developed we had a different perspective as to remote working, so I would urge HIAL to look closely what we all can do to keep jobs in Shetland,” he said.

Wills’ main rival in the May election, current Lib Dem MSP Beatrice Wishart, has strongly criticised HIAL’s plans. Politicians from other parties such as the Conservatives, Labour and the Greens have also raised concerns.

Scottish Parliament election, 6 May 2021