NICOLA Sturgeon told MSPs today that Prestwick Airport managers would have to justify their eviction of aircraft handling firms Greer Aviation and Landmark Aviation, and she would not “micro-manage” the Scottish Government-owned site.
The infrastructure secretary and soon-to-become First Minister said airport chiefs believed they could provide a higher-quality and most cost-effective service for private jets and military aircraft than the companies.
However, she said the airport would be “held to account” for the decision.
She announced to MSPs that Andrew Miller had been appointed as chairman of the airport’s board, which she said would “want to reflect” on the ground handling firms decision if it was perceived to have been badly handled.
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Greer Aviation managing director Bert Greer last night condemned the “nationalisation” of his long-established operation, which includes refuelling aircraft, which he predicted would hinder Prestwick’s recovery.
MSPs on Holyrood’s infrastructure committee told Ms Sturgeon of their concerns that the move could put off other businesses from the airport.
Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley SNP MSP Adam Ingram said: “It sends the wrong signals to the private sector that an airport can unilaterally take over a business that has operated successfully.”
However, Ms Sturgeon said it had been an operational decision by the airport’s management, and she could not tell them what they were allowed to do.
She said the airport already provided such services for passenger and cargo flights, and believed it could expand such business by taking all such operations in-house.
She said: “The airport will be held to account in the fullness of time as to whether they were right.”
The staff involved - some 35 - are likely to be transferred to the airport.
Ms Sturgeon also said ministers had to remain neutral over Prestwick’s bid to become the UK’s first spaceport since there were five other Scottish bids among a total of eight.
However, she said: “Prestwick is in a very good position here, and will be able to put in a very strong bid.”
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