A north MSP has sharply criticised Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL) for basing a brand new centralised air traffic control system at Inverness airport.
The SNP’s Gail Ross was left “very disappointed” at last week’s announcement that the Highland capital would host the new innovative air traffic control system.
Under the plans, seven of the Scottish Government owned HIAL airports would have their air traffic controlled remotely from a new digital tower based in Inverness.
The seven airports affected are Sumburgh, Dundee, Inverness, Wick John O’Groats, Kirkwall, Stornoway and Benbecula.
HIAL maintains the move is to “future proof” the company with increased air travel and demand on resources.
But Mrs Ross has questioned whether full consultations took place.
She said: “I was very disappointed to learn of the decision to base the new service in Inverness, which seems like a real kick in the teeth to smaller airports who have been working hard to train, support and develop the expertise in their ATC staff.
“I have written today to HIAL to ask for specific details on their consultation process and what the criteria were for choosing Inverness over all other airports.”
She added: “Whilst I appreciate that Inverness is the larger and most busy airport, there is a real public perception that, at present, Inverness gets a lot of public money spent on it in terms of development and jobs, to the detriment of other regional airports.”
Among the other contenders was Wick John O’Groats Airport which is in Mrs Ross’ constituency. She said placing the ATC system there could have provided jobs for decades.
She added: “I have consistently made the case that Wick John o Groats Airport should be considered as a real possibility for the future of the air traffic control service in the Highlands, not least because of the real benefit and impact it would have on the socio-economic climate of the county.
“We need sustainable, quality jobs and I am worried that this decision will limit many who have seen themselves as having a career in the aviation industry in the Highlands to only being based in Inverness.”
The ATC system has proved contentious as safety concerns have been raised. but it is already in operation in Sweden where it was developed by Saab Digital Air Traffic Solutions.
HIAL was contacted for comment but did respond.