Heathrow bosses confident of SNP runway backing

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heathrow Airport is confident of winning potentially-crucial SNP backing for a third runway if it is recommended in the forthcoming report by a UK government commission.

Chief executive John Holland-Kaye told The Scotsman he could persuade the 56 MPs who form the third largest party at Westminster to support it.

Artists impression of a night-time view of the proposed third runway at Heathrow Airport. Picture: Contributed

Artists impression of a night-time view of the proposed third runway at Heathrow Airport. Picture: Contributed

They may play a key part in any runway decision as some Conservative MPs, who have a majority of 12, might refuse to back expansion at Heathrow.

The Airports Commission, appointed by the previous coalition government, is expected to announce next month whether it favours a third runway at Heathrow or a second one at rival Gatwick.

It is considering a shortlist of three options which comprise a new or extended runway at Heathrow, or a new one at Gatwick.

Completion of the project is expected to take ten years.

Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport. Picture: Contributed

Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport. Picture: Contributed

Heathrow’s routes to Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen are among Scotland’s busiest.

The airport is also Scotland’s most popular global gateway, with 930,000 connecting passengers last year, most of them flying with British Airways.

This is despite Scotland’s burgeoning direct routes to other hub airports in Europe, the Middle East and North America.

However, Heathrow is virtually full, and the number of its Scottish flights will be cut when Virgin Atlantic axes its Edinburgh and Aberdeen routes in September, leaving BA with a monopoly. Gatwick has more destinations but fewer long-haul flights. Only British Airways and easyJet provide connecting flights from Scotland.

Appearing in a Google Hangout Live on Air online video broadcast at The Scotsman, Mr Holland-Kaye said he could gain the SNP’s support for Heathrow’s plans.

He said: “They want what we want, they want what we can deliver – which is keeping Scotland right at the heart of the global economy and helping to support Scottish exports.”

The chief executive predicted SNP MPs would also back the employment and economic boost for Scotland which he said a new Heathrow runway would bring.

He said: “Of course, they want 16,000 new jobs and £14 billion for the Scottish economy, funded by private investment. We are very much aligned.”

Drew Hendry, the SNP’s Westminster transport spokesman said: “The SNP Scottish Government’s submission is impartial in terms of the option appraisal that the Airports Commission is undertaking.

“We want to see a greater number of international flights directly to and from Scottish airports as well as improved connectivity between Scotland and London.”

Gatwick Airport warned Scotland would lose out if Heathrow “monopolised” the market with a new runway.

Chief executive Stewart Wingate said: “The choice for Scotland boils down to a competitive system across the whole of the UK, supported by Gatwick, or the expensive London monopoly being proposed by Heathrow, which will require hundreds of millions of pounds from Scottish taxpayers.”