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Government buyout of Prestwick Airport condemned

Prestwick Airport. Picture: Robert Perry

Prestwick Airport. Picture: Robert Perry

  • by ALASTAIR DALTON
 

EDINBURGH Airport chief executive Gordon Dewar yesterday condemned the Scottish Government takeover of ailing Prestwick Airport, which he said must “stand on its own two feet”.

EDINBURGH Airport chief executive Gordon Dewar yesterday condemned the Scottish Government takeover of ailing Prestwick Airport, which he said must “stand on its own two feet”.

Dewar also renewed his attack on public money being used to help restore flights between Dundee and London – saying passengers should take the train instead.

His comments follow a move by ministers to plough more than £6 million into Prestwick since buying the Ayrshire airport in November for £1 to prevent its closure.

The airport was losing £7m a year and passenger numbers had halved in six years.

In contrast to Dewar’s position, Glasgow Airport said yesterday it had expressed fears over the acquisition but had been given assurances by ministers that the airport would be run on an “entirely commercial basis”.

However, that could change if Prestwick’s recovery strategy, expected next month, includes plans for passenger growth.

Dewar told BBC Radio Scotland’s Business Scotland programme: “Every airport in the Central Belt should be standing on its own two feet. It should be commercially profitable, investing its own money and certainly not being supported by the public sector.”

Dewar also criticised Dundee City Council’s cash backing for a new route to Stansted launched last month, replacing the axed London City link. He said: “There are plenty of opportunities from Dundee to fly via Aberdeen or fly via Edinburgh, or indeed Glasgow. If you are going to London, then get on the train, which again is a subsidised service.”

The Scottish Conservatives said Dewar’s comments underlined the fact that Prestwick must be speedily re-privatised.

The Scottish Government’s Transport Scotland agency insisted its spending on Prestwick would not harm other airports, and that ownership of the airport was on a “commercial basis”. “There will be no ongoing subsidy of the airport’s operations and we expect investment to generate a long-term return for taxpayers’ money,” a spokeswoman said.

A spokesman for Dundee City Council said air links were crucial for the city’s regeneration. “We are keen to find a longer-term service to connect Dundee and London, and the council is in the process of attracting an operator under a Public Service Obligation.”

 

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