Air Traffic Management Strategy

The ATMS Programme

In January 2018, HIAL received approval to proceed with its Air Traffic Management Strategy (ATMS) to modernise its air traffic management system and deliver a modern and flexible air traffic management operation through the introduction of remote tower operations in a combined surveillance centre.  In December 2019, the ATMS Business Case was approved by Transport Scotland’s Investment and Decision-Making Board and the HIAL Board gave approval to proceed with the ATMS programme delivery.

During 2021, the industrial action by air traffic controllers, failure to reach agreement with the trade union Prospect on the original ATMS proposal, and the range in costs following the tender exercise for the remote tower element created a significant budget risk.  This resulted in a compromise agreement between HIAL and Prospect.

In January 2022, the HIAL Board agreed the future strategic direction for air traffic modernisation, which comprised a centralised surveillance operation for Sumburgh, Kirkwall, Stornoway, Inverness, and Dundee airports, based at our existing approach radar facility on the Inverness Airport Site.  Air traffic tower services would continue to be provided locally at each of these airports.  Prospect then balloted its members, with the majority of air traffic controllers accepting this revised strategic direction.

The HIAL Board was provided with an outline business case for the revised strategic direction for air traffic modernisation at their meeting in May 2022.  However, board members requested a more detailed analysis of delivery options to inform their decision-making process for their meeting scheduled in June.

At that meeting in June, the Board was presented with a phased delivery plan for the revised strategic direction for air traffic modernisation. The Board agreed this approach in principle.  However, considering the Scottish Government’s resource spending review published on 31 May 2022, the Board asked that the delivery plan be revisited in line with this new budgetary information.

The Scottish Government’s Resource Spending Review sets out the high-level parameters for resource spend for future Scottish budgets up to 2026-27.    These indicative budgets show a decrease in available funding for HIAL over the next three to four years and present a significant future funding challenge for the company.   The pressure this creates is further compounded by increasing inflation and rising price challenges. Therefore, the Board wanted to review the impact of reduced budgets - not only for air traffic modernisation, but across the whole organisation.

In response to the funding challenges facing the country and the Scottish Government’s strategic spending review, HIAL is undertaking an internal spending review.  Like many other businesses, HIAL must reappraise priorities and spending options and make difficult decisions based on the extraordinary circumstances we are all facing as global economic pressures impact our day-to-day activities and our future plans. 

The Executive Team presented a paper to the Board at their meeting on 24 August 2022 highlighting the impact of the considerable gap between the funding available and HIAL’s operational and strategic plans. The HIAL Board is considering several options to help address the current fiscal position and decided one of the options will be to scale back air traffic modernisation plans for the duration of the strategic spending review.

Consequently, at their meeting on 24 August, the Board made the decision to wind up the ATMS Board Sub-Committee.  This is the final action from the Board to close the original ATMS programme following the change in strategic direction agreed in January 2022.  With the conclusion of the ATMS Board Sub-Committee, moving forward the HIAL Audit Committee will manage any remaining activity, including liaising with the Digital Assurance Office to ensure any outstanding issues are addressed.   The Audit Committee will undertake a review and lessons learned exercise for the ATMS programme.

In the spirit of openness and transparency, we will retain published financial information, news archive and documents library relating to the ATMS programme within this area of the website