A NEW Scottish international air hub at the heart of the country is to built to replace Edinburgh and Glasgow airports, The Scotsman can reveal.
• Visitors to Scotland would be treated to stunning views of the site of the Battle of Bannockburn as they flew in. Picture: Esme Allen
Ministers believe the complex, near Stirling, would give arriving visitors an unforgettable first view of Scotland, as planes swooped in over the Wallace Monument and Ochil Hills.
American tourists flying in from the west would also get a bird's-eye view of the site of the Battle of Bannockburn, where the English were defeated in 1314.
The SNP government plans to further maximise the patriotic potential of the development by naming the airport William Wallace International.
Ministers had considered calling it Sean Connery International, but dropped the idea because the film star's expatriate status might encourage more people to holiday abroad, rather than at home.
However, it is understood actor Mel Gibson has agreed to provide announcements for lifts in the terminal, which will include a welcome to "Braveheart country".
A new airport, equidistant from Scotland's two main cities, is seen as a better alternative to the current competition between Edinburgh and Glasgow airports. Officials are planning to push the sale of the two facilities and use the value of the land as seed funding for the construction of Wallace International.
Starting afresh would also enable the construction of twin runways long enough for Airbus A380 superjumbos – which neither Edinburgh or Glasgow can accommodate. First Minister Alex Salmond is anxious Scotland is not be left behind after the Emirates airline announced yesterday that it is to start operating the aircraft from Manchester.
Wallace International is seen as a centrally placed location with good road and rail links. It would be able to take advantage of the 1 billion scheme to electrify rail lines across the Central Belt as far north as Dunblane, to be completed in 2016.
A new airport station would be built on the Alloa line which borders the site and would become the Scottish National Air and Rail Link (Snarl) – which the Nationalists will claim as their own after successfully ditching the Edinburgh and Glasgow airport rail links (Earl and Garl), planned by their predecessors.
Ministers hope that the airport could become "Scotland's Heathrow" under independence, able to compete as an alternative to the London hub, whose third runway plans face major opposition.
Welcoming the plans, Professor Hugh Fellforit, a transport expert at Aberdeen University, said: "Scotland needs a smarter approach to airport development that better serves the whole country. To build one on this site would be breathtaking."
The project builds on a series of previous studies into a new Central Scotland airport.
The Scottish Office identified nearby Airth as an option in 1959, which was revisited in a 2002 white paper.
The development could be followed by plans to redevelop Stirling Albion's Forthbank ground to become Scotland's new national stadium for both football and rugby to replace both Hampden and Murrayfield.
Football legend Alan Hansen, who is from nearby Sauchie, said: "This is a truly visionary plan which would transform my home turf. It could even help Scotland to win a future bid to host the World Cup."