SCOTLAND’s most recent transport minister says that people are appointed to the board of Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) based on their abilities, not their location.
It comes after a petition was submitted to the Scottish Parliament calling for public bodies providing services to the islands to have stronger community representation.
Writing in March before parliament went into recess for the 6 May elections, then transport minister Michael Matheson said it is “not appropriate to limit the candidate pool for board membership by imposing requirements for where candidates come from”.
He was responding to questions raised through another parliamentary petition, which calls for a halt to HIAL’s plans to centralise air traffic control in the Highlands and Islands to Inverness.
The parliament’s petitions committee asked if any members of the HIAL board had knowledge or experience of living in rural, remote or island communities.
“Residents of island communities are free to apply to become members of the HIAL board if they wish,” Matheson said.
“An understanding of the role of transport, including aviation, in maintaining the economic and social integrity of the Highlands and Islands is a requirement for all board members.
“At each appointment round we review the skills and knowledge that the board collectively possesses to ensure that it can provide effective oversight of the company.
“This review includes both the skills and knowledge that the current board possess as well as the skills and knowledge that we believe the board collectively requires to be effective.”
In his response to the petition Matheson also confirmed that to date £6.5 million had been spent on HIAL’s controversial air traffic control plan.
A freedom of information request from Shetland News showed that up to November last year just over £6 million had been spent.
The petition to introduce community representation on boards of public organisations delivering lifeline services to island communities has so far collected 473 signatures.
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