Heathrow Airport today pledged to create hundreds of Scottish jobs by opening a construction assembly centre north of the Border for a new runway if it is approved by the UK Government.
It also pledged to work with EasyJet - Scotland’s biggest airline - to launch flights to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness - and Dundee, with Scottish Government help.
The moves came as the airport sought to maintain pressure on the UK Government to approve the runway amid concerns a decision may be delayed further by the political turmoil triggered the EU referendum result.
It also amounts to a potentially major change in the way the airport organises construction projects, which have always previously been done on site.
The “supply chain hub” would be an assembly depot for materials provided by Scottish companies for the massive runway scheme.
The airport said that would enable more small and medium size Scottish companies to bid for work.
It said it would discuss potential locations with the Scottish Government.
A spokesman said: “This is the first time we’ve ever built something like this away from the airport – it is an important investment on our part and represents a significant commitment to making Heathrow expansion deliver for Scotland.”
The independent Airports Commission last July recommended a third runway at Heathrow be approved rather than a second one at Gatwick.
However, the UK Government put off a decision until the end of last year, when it announced further investigation into noise, pollution and compensation would be needed.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin today insisted the UK Government remained committed to airport expansion in south-east England despite the result of the referendum,
He said investment in long-term infrastructure “has become more important” following the Leave vote.
Mr McLoughlin told the National Infrastructure Forum in London: “We remain committed to expansion and we remain committed to delivering runway capacity on the timetable set out by Sir Howard Davies [a new runway by 2030].
“This remains one of the most important decisions for the Government to take.”
Heathrow claimed a new runway would create 16,000 jobs in Scotland, including from businesses benefiting from improved global air links.
Chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: “Through a wholly private investment, expansion will create 16,000 new Scottish jobs – the first wave of which will come from a new supply chain hub in Scotland – and deliver £14 billion in growth for the Scottish economy.
“Now more than ever, it’s a prize that we must seize.”
Scottish business groups welcomed the pledge and called for runway to be given the green light.
Scottish Chambers of Commerce chief executive Liz Cameron said: “We are engaged with Heathrow’s UK Supply Chain Group and would welcome investment of this nature into Scotland.
“This is not the time to be continually delaying large-scale investment opportunities and we urge the UK Government to make an early and final decision on expanding UK’s airport capacity.”
Glasgow Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stuart Patrick said: “The new hub will enable businesses to access the construction supply chain and allow Heathrow to tap into skills and resources across the UK, in what will be one of the country’s largest infrastructure projects ever undertaken.
“We will continue to make the case for the expansion of Heathrow and for a quick decision.”
Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (Hial) managing director Inglis Lyon said: “Heathrow’s supply chain Hub plans present an exciting opportunity for a range of suppliers across the length and breadth of Scotland.
“Should the UK Government approve the development, the Hial team would be delighted to play our role in increasing economic growth through supporting improved connectivity.”
However, the plan was rubbished by Gatwick Airport. A spokesman said: “Heathrow has made versions of this announcement several times before, as it tries again to build a monopoly airport in London that is well-placed to steal much of Scotland’s successful and lucrative long-haul market.
“On the other hand, Gatwick promotes competition and choice, and a system that allows the Scottish airports to flourish, building the kind of partnerships we have seen emerge recently with Norwegian Air at Gatwick and now Edinburgh.”