First Minister disappoints MSPs with weak answer to emergency question on HIAL industrial action

Edward Mountain MSP asks emergency question on Highlands and Islands Airports Limited industrial action.

Highlands and Islands MSP, Edward Mountain, criticised the Scottish Government today for not having a contingency plan in place to prevent industrial action affecting HIAL.

The criticism came following Edward Mountain’s emergency question to the First Minister at the Scottish Parliament.

Edward Mountain asked:

“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 the 26th April, 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?”

The First Minister 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.”

Following their exchange, Edward Mountain made the following comment:

“I am disappointed with the First Minister’s answer today as it would now appear that the Scottish Government remains unclear on how to prevent industrial action.

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.”


More information:

HIAL is a public corporation wholly owned by the Scottish Ministers. Those Ministers, including the First Minister, are therefore ultimately responsible for how HIAL is operated.

HIAL has provided information about the dispute on its website, noting that it has scheduled a meeting with Prospect (the union for Air Traffic Control Officers) and the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) on 9 April 2019 in a bid to reach a mutually agreeable solution to resolve the ATCO pay dispute.  As this date falls after 1 April 2019, the work to rule by ATCOs due to start on that day will come into effect. HIAL anticipates there will be some disruption as a result of the work to rule, has apologised in advance for the inconvenience this may cause, continues to work closely with airlines to minimise potential disruption wherever possible, and will continue to engage with Prospect.

To allow passengers to plan, HIAL is progressing on the assumption that the strike action will go ahead and that the following airports will close to air traffic for the 24 hour period on 26 April 2019:

  • Benbecula
  • Dundee
  • Inverness
  • Kirkwall
  • Stornoway
  • Sumburgh
  • Wick John O’Groats

Passengers should check the dedicated page on the HIAL website for up to date information during the action period: