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SNP urged to step and stop move for rural air traffic control

SCOTTISH transport secretary Michael Matheson was urged today to intervene to keep the jobs of 60 air-traffic control staff in rural communities.

Workers from the government-owned Highlands and Islands Airports (HIAL) group were in Holyrood to watch Mr Matheson’s grilling by fellow MSPs over the proposals to move the jobs to Inverness.

Politicians of all stripes pressed Mr Matheson for a commitment to stop the roles from being moved away from Shetland, Wick and other small airports for “modernisation” purposes.

The proposal would create a central air-traffic control hub in Inverness, with remote towers replacing existing staff at other sites.

But those affected by the move say they were not properly consulted, with many staff being forced to move hundreds of miles to the city.

A number of MSPs criticised the plans, including Labour’s Rhoda Grant — who said the decision seemed to have been made long ago. She said that the personal cost would be “huge” to the staff forced to choose between their job and their families.

Green MSP John Finnie said that jobs need to be retained in remote and island communities, urging HIAL to consider their “social responsibility.”

But Mr Matheson would not be drawn on an intervention, saying that an impact assessment of the changes would be carried out.

Unions say they cannot see how the proposals can be good for highland and island communities.

Prospect’s national secretary for Scotland, Richard Hardy, said: “The only people it seems good value to is the company selling HIAL the equipment.”

HIAL had not responded to requests for comment at the time of going to press.

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