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Community / Petition calls for greater local knowledge on boards of public bodies

Sumburgh Airport. Photo: HIAL

PEOPLE are being encouraged to sign a petition aimed at ensuring stronger representation for communities on the boards of public organisations involved in providing services to the islands.

The petition, which is open for signatures until Wednesday, comes in the wake of widespread opposition to HIAL’s plans to centralise air traffic control to Inverness. It has been lodged by members of an economic taskforce in the Outer Hebrides community of Uist.

Three years ago the Scottish Government created a new law which was supposed to ensure all new policy decisions are “island proofed”, but several island communities have united to protest that HIAL’s plans do not meet that test.

Last week the Prospect trade union announced it was escalating industrial action, short of strike action, in opposition to what government-owned HIAL describes as a modernisation of air traffic control.

The matter was also examined during two sessions of the Scottish Parliament’s public petitions committee in February. MSPs from several parties including the governing SNP accused HIAL of failing to pay sufficient heed to islanders’ concerns.

Peter Henderson, a former Kirkwall Airport air traffic control worker who is seeking to halt HIAL’s move on the grounds that it will remove numerous jobs from the islands, says that ensuring greater representation on the boards of public bodies that provide lifeline services would “assist in ensuring that projects that have a detrimental effect on island communities are not pushed through by people who have little understanding of the realities of island life”.

The petition argues that local knowledge should be viewed as “an essential skill” for such boards as it would bring “an appreciation and understanding of local community needs relevant to the service which is being delivered”.

Using HIAL’s plans to illustrate their concerns, the petitioners argue that “our communities should have ownership, through our place on boards, appointed on merit, over assets which are there to serve us”.

They argue that HIAL’s board should be challenging its senior management team and this would be better achieved by assigning three seats on its board to people living in communities served by HIAL’s airports, preferably island residents, including at least one of the three islands’ councils.

You can read the petition, which will be sent to the Scottish Parliament, in full here.