This is confirmed in a letter from the HIAL managing director, Inglis Lyon, to the chairman of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s transportation committee, Uisdean Robertson. Mr Lyon also states that “working groups” have been formed to look for “a new way forward”.
The Gazette recently reported that HIAL’s annual report, published in December, referred to the ongoing procurement process without acknowledgement of opposition from local communities and trade unions, or of the subsequent decision to suspend the centralisation plans.
In response, the Glasgow PR firm which represents HIAL said: ”This is an annual report covering the period 1 April 2021 to 31 March 2021. The annual report would not be updated to reflect the position beyond those dates”.
In his letter to Mr Robertson, the HIAL managing director says: “We have been clear that ATMS is our preferred option to maintain the long-term sustainability of air services for the Highlands and Islands.
"Nevertheless, we are committed to working with Prospect and our air traffic control colleagues to try and develop a new approach that will ensure a safe, resilient, modern air traffic operation, and that will require compromise by both sides.
“Negotiating a compromise when the two sides are poles apart was always going to be challenging. However, the pandemic and its effects on the airline industry, in addition to the results of the Islands Impact Assessment, have helped both Prospect and HIAL arrive at the current position.
“This is a considerable process and any proposals as a result of the discussions will have cost, regulatory and governance hurdles to overcome…. Alternative deployment methods are actively being considered but we will not take forward any proposals until discussions and workgroups with Prospect and our air traffic colleagues have concluded.”.