Glasgow Prestwick Airport (Discussions with United Kingdom Government)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 17 June 2015.

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Photo of Margaret McDougall Margaret McDougall Labour

1. To ask the Scottish Government what recent discussions it has had with the UK Government regarding securing the future of Glasgow Prestwick airport. (S4O-04468)

Photo of Keith Brown Keith Brown Scottish National Party

Glasgow Prestwick airport continues to operate on a commercial basis at arm’s length from the Government. Scottish Government officials last met their Westminster counterparts on 29 May to discuss the process for determining the location of the United Kingdom spaceport.

Photo of Margaret McDougall Margaret McDougall Labour

I am delighted to hear that, and I look forward to hearing the decision on the spaceport.

As part of the Scotland Bill package, air passenger duty is due to be devolved to the Scottish Government. With control of that tax, the Scottish Government could generate a boost to all Scottish airports. What work is being done to identify a replacement for APD? Do the considerations include the assessment of the cost and the environmental implications?

Photo of Keith Brown Keith Brown Scottish National Party

It is not the Government’s position to replace APD. In fact, we would like to have been able to take action six years ago, when the Calman commission proposed that APD should be devolved to Scotland, but that has not been possible and will not be possible until the power is devolved in the future.

As has been stated on a number of occasions, we intend first to reduce the impact by around half. We have done the cost calculations on that. That would take place in the next session. In the future, the aim is to reduce the impact to zero, but that would happen only as public resources allowed.

Some work has been done on the environmental impact. I would be happy to get that information and pass it to the member.

The substantial point that the member made about the benefit to all Scotland’s airports was good. The benefit would be substantial. For example, Ryanair, which is the main passenger airline at Prestwick, has said that it would expect to have around a million more passenger journeys. The York Aviation report, which goes into the matter in some detail and which, I think, all airports in Scotland and many of the airlines contributed to, said that there would be a substantial economic benefit. That would be for the airports, the aircraft companies and the general population in Scotland from more people coming to this country.

I have described what we want to do. A fair bit of work has been done and work is on-going. There will be a consultation exercise. I will provide the member with the environmental information that she asked for.

Photo of Adam Ingram Adam Ingram Scottish National Party

Does the cabinet secretary agree that the closure of Prestwick airport would have been devastating for Ayrshire and its economy? Does he maintain that the action that the Scottish Government took to purchase that airport was the right thing to do?

Photo of Keith Brown Keith Brown Scottish National Party

Absolutely. The member has raised an important point that can sometimes be lost in the passage of time. I am in no doubt that we were right to purchase Glasgow Prestwick. Closure was on the cards; indeed, the airport’s previous owners were working to a specific timeframe and were going to pull down the shutters at the airport on a specific day. We as the Scottish Government were not willing to stand by and let that happen.

The member will recall Scottish Enterprise’s estimate that around 3,200 local jobs are directly or indirectly based in and around Glasgow Prestwick, and we can all imagine the impact on the area of losing that level of jobs. We believe that with the right team in place, the right business plan for the future and the support of key local partners such as South Ayrshire Council, the airport can have a positive future and the Government can achieve a return on its investment.