Drone security – ‘we shouldn’t pass the buck to Westminster’: MSP

A Labour MSP is criticising the Scottish Government over its reaction to airport security and the threat of drone disruption.

David Stewart, who represents the Highlands and Islands, asked Transport Secretary Michael Matheson what discussions the Government has had with the UK Government, the MoD and the Airport Operators Association regarding measures to prevent drones grounding flights in Scotland.

His Parliamentary Question followed the Gatwick chaos just before Christmas when an estimated 140,000 passengers had their travel plans disrupted by reports of illegal drone activity.

It is thought that Gatwick has spent about £5million on anti-drone equipment, and Heathrow, the country’s busiest airport, confirmed it had also bought technology to combat the unmanned craft. Gatwick has even offered a £50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.

“It appears that the Scottish Government, which owns two airport companies in Scotland, including Highlands and Islands Airports Limited, is leaving this to Westminster to sort out,” said Mr Stewart.

“Yes, this is a reserved matter but I think Ministers are negating their responsibilities by just seeking an update from Westminster.

“Some might argue, ‘oh it won’t happen here’ but we can’t be complacent.

There needs to be a strategy in place in case it does, especially for the Highlands and Islands where our 11 airports are vital to the economic and social welfare of the region. And, our airports might need more support for this security threat.”

Mr Matheson said in his reply: “Scottish Government officials discussed the potential impact of misuse of drones at Scottish airports with the Department for Transport on 9 January 2019, seeking an update on the UK Government’s position on this matter.

“The Scottish Government routinely works closely with the UK Government on a wide range of security related issues, and officials are in regular contact directly with Scottish airports regarding resilience matters.”
The UK Government is planning to release a consultation on drones before the end of February and is set to publish a draft bill by May.

SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT
WRITTEN ANSWER
22 January 2019
Index Heading: Transport Scotland
David Stewart (Highlands and Islands) (Scottish Labour): To ask the Scottish Government what discussions it has had with the (a) UK Government, (b) MoD and (c) Airport Operators Association regarding measures to prevent drones grounding flights in Scotland.
S5W-20911
Michael Matheson: Aviation safety and security and control of airspace are reserved to Westminster.
Scottish Government officials discussed the potential impact of misuse of drones at Scottish airports with the Department for Transport on 9 January 2019, seeking an update on the UK Government’s position on this matter.
The Scottish Government routinely works closely with the UK Government on a wide range of security related issues, and officials are in regular contact directly with Scottish airports regarding resilience matters.
Ends