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Chamber and committees

Question ref. S5W-36212
Asked by: John Finnie, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Green Party
Date lodged: 11 March 2021


To ask the Scottish Government how it plans to mitigate any economic damage to the islands as a result of the operation of remote airport towers throughout the HIAL network.

Current status: Answered by Michael Matheson on 23 March 2021


The aim of Highlands and Islands Airports Limited’s (HIAL) Air Traffic Management 2030 Strategy (ATMS) Project is to ensure the continuation of air services in the medium to long term, which in turn helps secure the economic prosperity of remote and rural communities. The cessation of air services would have a devastating impact on these communities and we have a responsibility to act now to ensure their continuation.

Through engagement with their staff, trade union representatives and other stakeholders HIAL are doing everything possible to mitigate the impact of posts moving to Inverness. In consultation with Prospect, HIAL are developing a relocation policy and a commuting policy to support their staff and local communities.

HIAL has recently recruited staff for two new posts based at Kirkwall Airport which will support the Sustainable Aviation Test Environment (SATE) Project. The SATE Project will create the UK’s first operationally-based, low-carbon aviation test centre at Kirkwall Airport in support of our aim to make the Highlands and Islands the world’s first net-zero aviation region by 2040.

HIAL have also proposed a centre of Aerodrome Flight Information Service (AFIS) excellence in Benbecula. This will not only retain all jobs locally but has the potential for further employment in the area. There is also associated economic benefits with increased footfall for the local community in accommodation and associated trade as it establishes itself as a UK training centre for AFIS operations.

HIAL will continue to explore where its operations can create more economic activity for our island communities. They intend to commission an independent study to identify where that can be done.