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MSP Rhoda Grant calls on Audit Scotland to probe plans by Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd to centralise air traffic control operations in Inverness; Fears flagged over loss of valuable jobs in remote areas

By Ali Morrison

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Inverness Airport.
Inverness Airport.

Audit Scotland has been called on to examine plans by Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) to centralise air traffic control operations in Inverness.

The call came from Labour MSP Rhoda Grant following the group’s appearance before Holyrood’s public petitions committee on Wednesday.

A petition lodged in May last year calls on the government to halt the project until an independent assessment can be undertaken.

Critics of the project fear it will draw jobs away from vulnerable areas and downgrade services at smaller airports.

Mrs Grant said: “The representations that HIAL is putting forward to the committee are clearly not in the spirit of transparency or working in the interests of communities.

“HIAL is all smoke and mirrors and is relying on a lot of technical speak to cover the fact that this project is not well thought through, not cost effective and is being pushed forward as a matter of stubbornness.

“As soon as you start to pull at the thread of HIAL’s argument it all comes apart.

“So I have written to Audit Scotland laying out the risk and cost concerns of the project and asking them to step in and compel some actual detail and honesty about the project.”

According to an FoI request submitted by a Shetland online newspaper, HIAL has so far spent £6,59m on the proposals, including £2,62m to purchase New Century House by the Kessock Bridge as its new control base.

A spokesman for HIAL said: “We have undertaken the ATMS project to ensure the long-term sustainability of all our airports, while at the same time securing air services to the Highlands and Islands for generations to come.”

Related article: Labour MSP accuses HIAL of 'smoke and mirror' tactics over controversial air control plans

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