Controversial plans to centralise air traffic control away from island communities have been cancelled.
The decision follows a cross-party campaign to protect high-value jobs in a multimillion-pound scheme affecting Sumburgh, Stornoway, Dundee and Kirkwall.
The plan was to concentrate jobs at a new remote tower in Inverness.
Benbecula and Wick were also affected by proposed changes.
Scottish transport minister Graeme Dey confirmed the re-think as part of a wider £9million reform at government-owned Highlands and Islands Airport Ltd.
Politicians across the region welcomed the move.
‘Failed to engage’
Western Isles SNP MP Angus MacNeil had previously accused his party colleague of failing to “engage” on the subject.
In a change of tone, Mr MacNeil said: “I congratulate Transport Minister Graeme Dey on this very wise decision.
“It was clearly a waste of money and good sense has prevailed not just for the Government coffers but for the local jobs which are vitally important to our communities.”
Jamie Stone, Lib Dem MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, said: “This is a welcome U-turn by the Scottish Government, but one that has come at phenomenal expense.
“Millions of pounds in public funds have been spent on a centralisation project that was flawed from the beginning.
“Scottish Ministers could have used this money to restart flights at Wick Airport, but instead all we have been left with is a big bill for the taxpayer, with nothing to show for it.”
Orkney MSP Liam McArthur prompted the response from Mr Dey after questions at Holyrood.
Mr McArthur said: “Millions have been wasted by SNP Ministers and HIAL on a centralisation that was never going to get off the ground.”
Members of the Prospect union staged strikes last year.
They said centralisation will remove good jobs from remote communities, forcing redundancies.
We will assess our future requirements to help deliver sustainable air services to the communities we serve.
– Airports spokesman
Prospect assessed £1.5m in direct employment would be removed from local economies.
An impact assessment for HIAL earlier this year estimated the centralising plan would cut the equivalent of 48 full-time jobs in the rural airports. The report highlighted the “very significant negative impact” of losing jobs in the islands.
Dundee would not suffer a wider economic blow on the same scale, but 11 staff in the city and neighbouring areas, including Mr Dey’s constituency, would be affected.
Future of air traffic control
In his response, Mr Dey told MSP the air traffic management 2030 strategy is a long-term project but the “remote tower” procurement plan is “cancelled”.
He added: “HIAL felt it would be inappropriate and unfair to expect tenderers to remain engaged in the procurement process in circumstances where the timescale for, and scope and extent of possible future remote air traffic provision is unclear.”
A HIAL spokesman said the operator still thinks the plan was the best way to maintain services.
“As and when we have outcomes from ongoing discussions with our air traffic colleagues and the trade union we will assess our future requirements to help deliver sustainable air services to the communities we serve,” the spokesman added.