TRANSPORT minister Keith Brown has accused the UK government of “talking down” Edinburgh Airport after an official document claimed that its ability to put on additional flights was “limited”.
Last night Brown said it was a “disgrace” that the UK government’s paper on Borders and Citizenship, published last week, had singled out Edinburgh Airport.
Scotland on Sunday understands that the document extract infuriated airport chiefs, who felt it was inaccurate and undermined their message that the company is open to new business.
The document suggested that the SNP’s plans to attract more immigrants was incompatible with an independent Scotland remaining a member of the common travel area between the UK and Ireland.
It also remarked that Scottish airports do not have the physical capacity to serve all parts of the globe, pointing out that there were no direct flights from Scotland to China.
It claimed Edinburgh Airport was “currently operating at over two-thirds of its maximum capacity and this is forecast to increase to nearly 80 per cent by 2020. It’s ability to add flights to additional destinations without affecting its current services [is] therefore limited.”
Yesterday, a spokesman for Edinburgh Airport said it found such a description “surprising and unhelpful”.
It is understood airport officials did not recognise the figures quoted by the UK government.
The Edinburgh Airport spokesman said: “For the avoidance of any doubt, we will never turn airlines away and work extremely hard to give Scottish passengers the routes they desire. We’ve been successful in 2013 in securing three new long-haul routes and will continue to make the case for Scotland and Edinburgh. We have also publicly committed to an investment of £150 million in our facilities, with our £25m new security hall under construction.”
The spokesman added: “CAA [Civil Aviation Authority] statistics reported last week show that we’re more punctual than ever, despite seeing our passengers in the summer soar to a million per month peak. We are committed to growing and maintaining our award-winning service levels. Edinburgh Airport is growing, underpinned with new routes, capital investment and increasing our capacity for flights and passengers.”
A spokesman for Brown said: “As with all the UK government’s reports this one is starting to fall apart spectacularly. The UK government is wrong on borders, wrong on the common travel area and wrong on the performance of Edinburgh’s excellent airport.
“Talking down one of Scotland’s top businesses in a failed attempt to score some political points is a disgrace. Edinburgh Airport is thriving and the Scottish Government regularly supports the airport to secure new routes to major destinations, support that can only be enhanced with independence.
“If the UK government wants business to take part in the debate it could start by representing them properly.”
A UK government spokesman said: “The UK Government’s Borders and Citizenship paper notes the success of Edinburgh Airport, which has continued to grow even through the challenging economic climate of recent years.
“The paper notes that increasing the airport capacity can be resource and investment intensive, particularly when this includes physical expansion, greater efficiency and infrastructure build. Edinburgh Airport has current capacity to receive new flights and routes.”