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HIAL and Prospect in talks over possible air management alternative

Under HIAL’s proposals, air traffic controllers would be replaced at Kirkwall Airport, and services would be diverted to a central hub in Inverness.

Talks are under way on a possible “alternate method of delivery” over a controversial air traffic management strategy (ATMS) which involves centralising control services to Inverness.

Highlands and Islands Airports Limited’s (HIAL) plans have come under intense criticism from politicians, local authorities and trade unions — all of whom have urged the government and HIAL to backtrack over the plans.

Under the proposals, controllers at Kirkwall, Sumburgh, Stornoway, Dundee and Inverness would be replaced by remote-control technology, in the form of fibre-optic links and cameras.

HIAL have been steadfast in their commitment to the project, one they have consistently said is the only option in their mission to modernise services and guarantee air connectivity in the Highlands and Islands.

However, in a joint statement, the airport operator and Prospect, the union which represents the air traffic controllers, have announced that talks over a possible alternative are now taking place.

Any proposal will be subject to consultation with union members and HIAL’s wider stakeholders.

Both David Avery, negotiation officer for Prospect, and Inglis Lyon, HIAL’s managing director, said that “constructive” talks were held on Friday, September 10, leading to the breakthrough.

Controllers were taking industrial action including strikes in protest to the plans — but the strike action has now been suspended while the talks take place.

Mr Lyon said: “HIAL and Prospect are discussing a possible alternate method of delivery for the ATMS project. Any proposal will be subject to consultation with union members and HIAL’s wider stakeholders.

“We have been engaging with Prospect to find a solution to resolve the current industrial action. I met with Prospect on Friday, September 10, to discuss the implementation of our air traffic modernisation programme.

“The discussions were constructive, and we will now move forward with more detailed talks.”