HIAL chair dodges important questions

The chair of of Highlands and Islands Airports Limited has avoided giving direct answers to a series of questions sent to her by the Stornoway Gazette in the wake of her re-appointment until 2025.

Thursday, 2nd September 2021, 9:16 am
HIAL continue to maintain a distance from the communities affected by air traffic centralisation

Instead, Lorna Jack – who is also chief executive of the Law Society of Scotland and a board member of the Scottish Funding Council – issued a statement through HIAL’s Glasgow-based public relations firm.

The questions were:

*What are your connections to the islands served by HIAL other than being appointed by the Scottish Government as chair of HIAL?

*When did you last visit Stornoway Airport?

* When did you last visit Benbecula Airport?

*When did you last meet Comhairle nan Eilean Siar?

*When did you last meet air traffic controllers in the Western Isles, or their union?

*Which airports have you visited at which remotely operated air traffic control is in operation?

*When did you last meet the Civil Aviation Authority to discuss safety aspects of the centralisation agenda for which you are accountable?

*A Scottish Government assessment found your centralisation programme, after two years, was one category away from "undeliverable". As chair, do you accept responsibility?

*What have been the costs so far of your centralisation programme and how are they being funded?

*Will you be willing, if invited, to attend public meetings in island communities to explain HIAL's rationale for pursuing centralisation of air traffic control?

*Do you intend to apply for any further quango appointments?

*Do you regard it as satisfactory that neither you nor any of your fellow non-executive HIAL board members live in, or have any identifiable association with, the island communities which HIAL exists to serve?

In response, Ms Jack said: “As chair, I lead a programme of local engagement to ensure representatives from the communities we serve have direct access to Board members. The engagement programme is aligned to our Board meeting timetable and provides local stakeholders at each of our 11 airports with the opportunity for open discussion on the different initiatives that impact their communities. Our HIAL colleagues, partner organisations, local businesses, local authorities, airline and aviation operators, and community representatives participate and provide invaluable feedback to Board members.

“I, along with Inglis Lyon, Managing Director, meet regularly with the leaders of local and island authorities to discuss HIAL’s strategy, projects planned and underway as well as local authority initiatives. Importantly, we use these sessions to discuss how we can work together for the benefit of our communities and plan for the future to ensure HIAL maintains the lifeline and air connectivity that is so essential for our islands.”

She said a vacancy for a board member will come up in February 2022 and “I would encourage anyone who wishes to make a constructive contribution to the future of aviation in the Highlands and Islands to apply”.