Ministers have been urged to reconsider 'staggering' Scots air traffic control cuts which unions say will put lifeline services 'at risk' as warnings were made about grounded planes as workers prepared to strike.

The state owned operators of Highlands and islands airports have attacked plans for strike action that is expected to bring lifeline air services to a standstill at the end of this month.

Highlands and Islands Airports Limited has received formal notification from Prospect of strike action by air traffic controllers at its 11 airports in the Scottish Highlands, the Northern Isles and the Western Isles.

The union have warned that the long-term future of lifeline services on Scottish islands is "at risk" through the plans to centralise air traffic control for seven airports and have triggered public safety fears.

Loganair has confirmed that it will be unable to provide flights at airports operated by HIAL during the strike.

Prospect says ministers of the Scottish Government have refused to even meet those communities involved to discuss the impact this project would have on them.

Scottish Greens' Highlands and Islands MSP Ariane Burgess said called for the Scottish Government to "urgently reconsider" the air traffic control plans "and commit to protecting valuable skilled jbos throughout the region".

“HIAL’s air traffic controllers play a vital role in allowing lifeline flights to service remote, rural and island communities throughout the Highlands and Islands," she said.

“The unique role performed by these skilled workers hasn’t always been appreciated by ministers in Edinburgh or officials sitting round a boardroom in Inverness. That needs to change.

The one day work stoppage will be effective from just after midnight on July 29.

Prospect has confirmed that current industrial action short of a strike will remain in place before and after the day of strike action.

It marks an escalation of a dispute over centralising some operations.

HIAL has been pushing ahead with plans to relocate air traffic work to one "remote site" in Inverness prompting fears that public safety at risk, according to the union.

Under Hial's plan, air traffic control for Inverness, Sumburgh in Shetland, Dundee, Kirkwall in Orkney, and Stornoway in the Western Isles would be controlled centrally.

Unmanned towers would feed information to a hub in Inverness.

It is claimed it will involve the removal of seven existing towers at Inverness, Dundee, Shetland, Orkney, Wick, Benbecula and Stornoway.

The Prospect union said the move would result in the loss of 50 jobs.


Since January the Prospect members have refused to work overtime, co-operate with Hial's air traffic project and refused to assist in the training for new recruits.

David Avery, Prospect negotiator, said: “Our members have been forced into this escalation of industrial action to protect the communities they serve. HIAL’s plan will remove high value skilled jobs from economies that can ill-afford to lose them, having a substantial negative impact on those communities.

“The Scottish Government has the power to step in on this debate but the minster hasn’t even taken the time to meet the local councils involved, or indeed is own MSPs, to discuss the impact of the remote towers project. We have since had the bizarre situation where UK minister Michael Gove discussed the matter with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar while the minister refuses. “Prospect members are not averse to change but it has to be done in a way that maintains jobs and skills in remote communities. HIAL needs to halt these plans now so our members can get on with their jobs.”

Loganair said the industrial action will affect six airports: Inverness, Sumburgh, Kirkwall, Stornoway, Benbecula and Dundee an it will be cancelling all flights on July 29 to and from the five airports impacted.

It said that customers booked to travel on this date will have the option to transfer their booking without any change fee or difference in fare to another Loganair flight – on an alternative route if they wish – or to obtain a full refund if they no longer wish to travel. Jonathan Hinkles, chief executive of Loganair, said: “We are hugely disappointed by this strike action by the union representing Air Traffic Controllers at HIAL airports, and can only ask for our customers’ understanding that we are unable to avoid the inconvenience that these flight cancellations will inevitably cause to travel plans, hospital appointments and island deliveries of freight and mail."

The Prospect union, has said that the long-term future of lifeline services is at risk through the plans said some members were unwilling to relocate.

An escalation of industrial action introduced in March included an overtime ban and a refusal of extended hours except for search and rescue, emergency and medical flights.

It also involves a refusal to commence training of new controllers.

That action was in addition to a continuous action short of a strike notified on the December 21, which started on January 4 consisting of a refusal to engage with proposals to centralise air traffic control for seven airports which involve shutting down seven traffic towers.

Previous analysis from Prospect, which represents air traffic control staff at HIAL airports, suggested that moving air traffic control to Inverness would remove around £1.5m of direct employment from rural and island economies and would "run contrary" to the recently published Islands Plan produced by the Scottish Government which owns HIAL.

Proposals for a single remote tower centre - said to be a UK first -were first mooted three years ago as part of HIAL plans to "future-proof" its operations with an estimated £28 million investment over the next ten to 15 years.

HIAL said in December it would continue its dialogue with the union and has denied it was proposing job cuts.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said:“It is disappointing the union is taking strike action, which will clearly impact passengers.

“We continue to encourage Prospect to engage with HIAL to ensure the successful implementation of the [air traffic management] project.

“It remains the case that no alternative has been proposed which addresses the issues that the project aims to resolve.”