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Transport / Air traffic controllers vote to continue industrial action in protest against HIAL project

Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart, meanwhile, has attacked the Scottish Government after it emerged that ministers have not discussed an islands impact assessment on the plans

The Sumburgh Airport control tower.
The Sumburgh Airport control tower.

PROSPECT members working as air traffic controllers for Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) have voted “overwhelmingly” to renew their mandate for industrial action in opposition to the controversial remote towers project.

The air traffic controllers have been engaged in a limited industrial action since January which includes an overtime ban, refusal to cooperate with the remote towers project and assist in the training for new recruits.

The vote will renew this action and contains the possibility for future strike action.

It centres around plans from HIAL to run air traffic control services for a number of Highlands and Islands airports, including Sumburgh, from Inverness.

A parliamentary question from MSP Beatrice Wishart this week found that Scottish Government ministers had still not discussed an islands impact assessment, despite it being received by HIAL in November and published in March.

Prospect negotiator David Avery said: “Prospect members have signalled with this vote that they are determined to stand firm against this disastrous project.

“We support modernisation of air traffic control, but the case for remote towers has been comprehensively demolished from every angle and yet HIAL and Scottish Government Ministers simply refuse to consider the alternative options.

“The project it opposed by staff, local communities, local politicians and independent experts- it is time for HIAL to read the room and seriously engage with alternative proposals.”

HIAL has repeatedly defended its plans as a safe way to deliver air traffic services in the future via a “long-term, sustainable solution to address underlying structural air traffic control issues, as well as staff retention and recruitment challenges across many locations”.

It says the remote tower plan will improve air traffic management resilience, as well as provide a centre of excellence for air traffic management, and training facilities.

HIAL managing director Inglis Lyon previously said: “Our air traffic controllers are highly-valued colleagues and we will work closely with them as we go through a period of significant change and necessary modernisation in the way air traffic management is delivered.”

Wishart, however, said “to know that ministers are yet to even discuss the island impact assessment makes a mockery of the process that is meant to empower island communities”.

HIAL is wholly owned by Scottish ministers.