The proposal to transfer all air traffic control responsibilities from the islands would have a major impact on the tiny economy of Benbecula.
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan said: "“The removal of these jobs will have a severe direct impact on the local economy. In Benbecula, it is estimated that these jobs represent more than 1.5% of the area’s salary base. At a time when the government is beginning to decentralise public sector jobs to the islands, this action by Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd is regressive."
Alasdair Allan has submitted a response to the retrospective Islands Communities Impact Assessment concerning HIAL’s Air Traffic Management Strategy (ATMS).
The programme would see islands-based air traffic control officers relocated to a central surveillance centre in Inverness and Benbecula Airport downgraded to an Aerodome Flight Information Service (AFAIS). The strategy was approved in 2018.
The impact assessment, which was required by the Scottish Government in spirit of the Islands (Scotland) Act 2018, is being undertaken by Reference Economic Consultants.
The MSP outlined several concerns which have been raised by community members, Air Traffic Control officers (ATCOs) and local representatives. “Over the past year, I have raised the anxieties of constituents that the strategy will have a negative impact on islands communities with both HIAL and the Scottish Government.
“The development of air service delivery should ensure that the needs of the communities at the heart of policy. I hope that this first-ever impact assessment under the Islands Act will mitigate the negative impacts which ATMS may cause."