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Highland MSP Edward Mountain criticises Scottish Government response to imminent air traffic control industrial action at Highlands and Islands Airports' sites – including Inverness

By Philip Murray

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A jet at Inverness Airport.
A jet at Inverness Airport.

A HIGHLAND MSP has accused the Scottish Government of not having a contingency plan to counter-act the effect of imminent industrial action on the region’s airports.

Edward Mountain, a Scottish Conservative list MSP, made the comments following an emergency question to the First Minister at the Scottish Parliament.

He was speaking after Highlands and Islands Airports (HIAL) confirmed that it had agreed a date with the union Prospect over a pay dispute with air traffic controllers – but would not be meeting with them and dispute arbitrators ACAS until after work-to-rule comes into force.

Staff will work set hours from April 1, with the conflict resolution meeting scheduled for eight days later.

And it warned that work-to-rule, and a planned 24-hour walk-out later in the month, would cause disruption to passengers jetting in or out of its various sites – including Inverness Airport at Dalcross.

Speaking in Holyrood, Edward Mountain said: “The First Minister will know that from Monday air traffic controllers working for HIAL are starting their work-to-rule which will have severe results as far as disruptions are concerned. On April 26, proposed strike action will close seven airports for twenty-four hours.

“Given the importance of air travel to businesses and families in the Highlands and Islands, can she confirm what contingency plans the Scottish Government have in place to help?”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon replied: “I’m extremely disappointed about the planned strike action. Highlands and Islands Airport are covered by our public sector pay policy.

“HIAL has implemented a pay rise for all staff which is an improvement on previous years and has also significantly increased its contribution to the pension scheme in order to maintain this benefit for employees.

“This issue is now, I understand, going to ACAS and I hope very much that there will be an early resolution of it so that the travelling public do not suffer any unnecessary disruption.”

But, speaking after their exchange, Edward Mountain said he was “disappointed” with the First Minister’s response “as it would now appear that the Scottish Government remains unclear on how to prevent industrial action.”

He continued: “Families and businesses who rely on air travel are at real risk of experiencing major disruptions for a long period.

“The Scottish Government cannot wash their hands of the situation. I would urge the Scottish Government to take this matter more seriously and take every step to ensure a swift resolution to this industrial dispute.”

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