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Hial says north MSP 's remarks on centralisation plans were 'unhelpful, uninformed and inflammatory'

By Gordon Calder

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THE company behind plans to centralise Highlands and Islands air traffic control services in Inverness has described a north MSP's remarks as "unhelpful, uninformed and inflammatory."

A spokesman for Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (Hial) hit out at Rhoda Grant's comments after she described the proposal as "a shambles of monumental proportions" and one which would have an adverse impact on Wick John O' Groats airport.

The Labour MSP is backing a cross-community petition which is asking the Scottish Government to halt the controversial plans which would result in airports at Wick and Benbecula being downgraded and others operated by Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (Hial) being monitored remotely.

Hial has hit back at the comments made by north MSP, Rhoda Grant.
Hial has hit back at the comments made by north MSP, Rhoda Grant.

Although Hial has announced it is reviewing its plans, Mrs Grant says there are still "grave concerns" as the company has bought building assets in Inverness which are intended for the delivery of the project.

But Hial has criticised Mrs Grant's views with a spokesman saying: "Given the sensitivity of the issues involved, which include the potential impacts on lifeline and essential connectivity, Ms Grant’s comments are unhelpful, uninformed, and inflammatory. Both Hial and Prospect – the union representing many of the air traffic controllers – remain focussed on achieving a mutually agreeable approach for the modernisation of air traffic services at Hial’s airports."

The Highlands and Islands MSP made her remarks when she addressed the Scottish Parliament petitions committee last week.

She said: "Remote towers has not been ruled out at any of the other airports. They are merely being postponed for up to five years in the hope that the problems dogging the project will be resolved by then.

"Hial want to downgrade Wick and Benbecula airports from an Air Traffic Control Service to a Flight Information Service. The impact on the community served by Benbecula will be profound and Wick will suffer a drop in traffic and may have difficulty finding an airline to operate the proposed PSO (Public Service Obligation) routes."

Mrs Grant urged the committee to contact Hial to get a clearer picture of its plans and to continue to keep the petition open due to the concerns raised.

Speaking of the centralisation plan, she said: "It is a shambles of monumental proportions – one which is costing time, and money and not even meeting the actual requirements of the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority), let alone those of communities."

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