1. To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update regarding its position on how the proposed third runway at Heathrow could impact on carbon emissions. (S5O-02227)
In support of its airports national policy statement, the United Kingdom Government has analysed the impact on carbon emissions and other environmental factors from the proposed third runway at Heathrow. Alongside publication of the national policy statement on 5 June, the UK Government published an appraisal of sustainability, which estimates that emissions could increase significantly if no mitigating measures are taken. The Scottish Government has noted that analysis and the UK Government’s view that a new third runway is deliverable within its international carbon commitments. The UK Government has stated that it will not proceed with a third runway unless the delivery of such commitments is achievable.
I am astonished that the Scottish Government, which is apparently seeking to increase the scale of its ambition on climate change, is relying on the complacency that is being shown by the UK Government. The UK Government has clearly been told that pressing ahead with the project will make its own UK-wide climate targets unachievable. Building a third runway is the most environmentally destructive method of increasing aviation capacity, and the Scottish Government’s estimates suggest that it will increase the number of short-haul flights between Scotland and Heathrow. Is this not the most recklessly complacent infrastructure project in the UK? Is the Scottish Government not due genuine criticism for listening to its lobbyists at the Scottish National Party conference, who throw a free bar and expect the Scottish Government to fall in line behind this damaging, unnecessary and destructive project?
I am sure that that question is designed to gain a headline rather than further illumination on the Scottish Government’s approach.
The UK Government is committed to a further runway at one of its airports, and it has chosen Heathrow. My job to support environmental mitigation is clear. The Scottish Government and the UK Government have said that the UK Government will not proceed with the project if it cannot be contained within its appraisal of sustainability and its carbon climate change targets.
Over and above that, we have ensured that, because the project is going ahead, there will be benefit to Scotland. My job as economy secretary is to ensure that there is connectivity with the rest of the UK, given the importance of Heathrow. Where we can, we have tried to get direct flights to Scotland, such as the one that started this week from Beijing, which obviate the need for additional flights from other airports.
We also have a £1.5 million marketing campaign that is marketing Scotland at Heathrow, which is important for our tourism sector, and we have an agreement to site one of the four UK supply chain hubs in Scotland, with Prestwick airport being looked at in that exercise. There will be procurement of a minimum of £200 million of construction-related spend in Scotland during the planning and construction phase. That is why the GMB, for example, and many others are very supportive of the Scottish Government’s approach in ensuring that we get maximum benefit from the development.
Tomorrow, Heathrow Airport representatives will visit Hunterston to discuss the potential of the magnificent site there to be used as a logistics hub. As the cabinet secretary is aware, Hunterston ticks every box in terms of suitability, efficiency, location and accessibility. Does he agree that choosing Hunterston would boost productivity, enhance supply chain opportunities for local businesses, and leave a legacy of new skills while allowing us to remain within climate change targets? Can he tell us how many jobs in my constituency such a logistics hub would create?
Mr Gibson will know that 10 sites are competitively bidding to be Scotland’s supply chain hub for Heathrow. I am aware that Heathrow Airport representatives are visiting four sites this week, including Hunterston, which Mr Gibson mentioned, and Prestwick.
Mr Gibson will also be aware that the commitment to establish a hub in Scotland was part of the memorandum of understanding that the Scottish Government signed with Heathrow Airport in October 2016. To answer Mr Gibson’s question directly, among the significant benefits for Scotland from the MOU, the supply chain hub is expected to create a minimum of 100 direct jobs. I welcome the interest that that has generated at sites throughout Scotland.