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Michael Matheson declines to give HIAL management vote of confidence

Transport Secretary Michael Matheson.
Transport Secretary Michael Matheson.

Transport Secretary Michael Matheson yesterday declined to say that he had confidence in Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) management when challenged over its performance yesterday.

The Cabinet Secretary faced questions at Holyrood over plans to centralise air traffic control operations, suggestions that staff are about the strike over pay, a report criticising its environmental credentials and the introduction of car parking charges.

Green Highlands and Islands MSP John Finnie claimed HIAL had failed to consult rural communities on issues including parking charges and mentioned a Scottish Environment Protection Agency report which had given the organisation a “very poor” rating on environment compliance.

Shetlands MSP Tavish Scott claimed parking charges had been introduced at Sumburgh Airport without consultation with locals.

Mr Finnie asked Mr Matheson if he had “full confidence in the ability of HIAL’s management team?”

In his response Mr Matheson failed to answer the question directly, but said HIAL was trying to take action in relation to environmental impact issues. He said the organisation was taking forward work to modernise the air traffic control system to reflect increasingly complex regulation and was engaging with staff on the issue of pay.

Mr Finnie said it wouldn’t be lost on HIAL that Mr Matheson had chosen “not to endorse their performance”.

HIAL Managing Director Inglis Lyon said: “We note Mr Finnie’s comments and have once again invited him to a meeting to address his concerns. This is the third time we have attempted to engage with Mr Finnie and we would be delighted if he took up the opportunity.

“HIAL takes its environmental responsibilities very seriously and has been working closely with SEPA for some time to improve our environmental compliance rating. We have recently changed to a more environmentally friendly de-icer and we are in the process of investing in excess of £5 million to resolve complex long standing legacy issues.

“We remain in positive negations with Air Traffic controllers and the trade union Prospect and will continue to work towards a resolution. The trade union Prospect have confirmed that these discussions are not in any way linked to our Air Traffic Management strategy.

“Finally, throughout the introduction of parking charges we carried out a wide-ranging stakeholder engagement programme. This included consulting with numerous stakeholders which yielded a number of changes which were outlined in a letter to Mr Finnie in May this year following the consultation.

“The money raised from the charges is being continuously reinvested to maintain and ultimately improve facilities, ensuring the long-term resilience of airport operations on the islands.”

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