THE battle to secure Scottish business backing for a third runway at Heathrow has intensified with the London hub offering executives £250 to fly to a presentation next month.
The move follows the visits of chief executives of both Heathrow and rival Gatwick – which is also campaigning for an additional runway – to Scotland to drum up support for their plans.
Heathrow has invited leading Scottish business people to a 45-minute briefing on 13 May on its final submission to the UK Government’s Airports Commission over increasing capacity in south-east England.
The body, chaired by Sir Howard Davies, has shortlisted two options for a third runway at Heathrow, and one for a second runway at Gatwick. It is due to make its recommendation to ministers after the general election in May next year.
Saj Ahmad, chief analyst for StrategicAero Research, said: “Heathrow risks losing its top spot to Dubai in less than a year and desperately needs wide-ranging business support across the UK to make the third runway proposal a reality.”
The issue is seen as equally crucial to Scotland, despite direct routes to other hubs such as Amsterdam and Dubai, because Heathrow routes are Scotland’s busiest, a combination of those travelling to London and those connecting with other flights. There is also concern that Scottish routes to London are being squeezed out because Heathrow is full.
The Heathrow invitation stated: “After ten months of consultation with the local community, business and other interested groups, we are delighted to invite you to a briefing on our final submission to the Airports Commission, so you can hear first hand about our plans to take Britain further.
“The discussion will be hosted by Heathrow’s chief executive, Colin Matthews, and John Holland-Kaye, development director. As the event will be held in central London, Heathrow is happy to make up to a £250 contribution towards any travel expenses.”
Matthews, who is stepping down this year, addressed Glasgow Chamber of Commerce in November but the visit backfired when he banned the press from the event.
Gatwick chief executive Stewart Wingate has also been on the campaign trail in Scotland, speaking to the Glasgow chamber in January and its Edinburgh counterpart in October.
The Glasgow chamber, which has accepted Heathrow’s invitation, backs a third Heathrow runway.
The Edinburgh chamber, which has turned down Heathrow’s offer, has not reached a view.
The Scottish Chambers of Commerce described it as “viable” so long as improved access from Scottish airports could be guaranteed.
The runway issue has split Scotland’s two main airports, with Glasgow siding with its Heathrow owner while Edinburgh is backing fellow Global Infrastructure Partners-owned airport Gatwick.
A Heathrow spokeswoman said: “Airports expansion is an issue for the whole of the UK. We have been consulting with various organisations on our plans and we have offered support to five Scottish business groups to attend an event in May.”