Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil is writing again to Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Michael Matheson, to discuss Mr Matheson’s refusal to meet regarding the airport situation in Stornoway and Benbecula where crucial island jobs are in the balance.
Commenting Angus MacNeil MP said:
“I am disappointed by the response from Michael Matheson, he was the longest to respond to the request to meet, a full month after Prospect Union, who responded within a day. Clearly at the moment we don’t need him to travel to the islands but just to meet with us virtually about these important island jobs.
“On day one of this process I told HIAL that they had an agenda of centralising and empire building around their office in Inverness. HIAL are an out-of-control department who are damaging the islands. Most of their airports are in the Islands yet their HQ is on the mainland. They should either have their HQ moved to the islands or be broken up. From the very beginning it was clear that they were wanting to centralise in Inverness, I challenged them on this at the start and I told them if they were going to centralise things to hub them in Benbecula or Stornoway. Clearly, they are wanting to empire build at their own head office.
“When there was an issue around the coastguard stations, the UK Government’s then Maritime Minister, Mike Penning MP, and accepted my invite to travel from London to Stornoway and didn’t leave it to his Government’s Maritime & Coastguard Agency, but instead took responsibility for government agency actions. He also met with concerned parties in London to discuss the issue too. It is now imperative that the Scottish Government intervene on this vital issue.
“In our islands, our ferry company, our airlines and even our Gaelic bodies, as well as in this case HIAL, are headquartered in the mainland. It is galling that some of the few, high quality, island jobs are about to be removed by an arm of the Scottish Government.
“If the Islands Act isn’t pointless, at the very least, it should be protecting these jobs. HIAL are damaging the islands, and this is not a good enough response from the Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary who should be overseeing their actions. The purpose of a virtual meeting is so we can all agree on the sets of facts surrounding this.
“I implore Michael Matheson to think again and to get around the table with the Civil Aviation Authority, Prospect Union, HIAL, the employees and elected representatives from the area, to make sure island jobs are not sold short.”