Scots businesses seek green light on Heathrow expansion

Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of CommerceLiz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce
Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce
Business chiefs north of the border have warned that the Heathrow expansion is needed to ensure Scotland is able to maximise its economic potential after Brexit and show the country is “open for business.”

Scotland and the UK’s ability to trade internationally will be damaged without the planned third runway at the London hub, according to Scottish Chambers of Commerce (SCC).

Chief executive Liz Cameron (inset) called for the plans to go ahead as part of an appeal to newly appointed UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak to produce a package in this week’s budget which will help kick-start Scottish growth.

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The Heathrow plans were dealt a major blow when a recent court ruling found they breached the UK’s environmental obligations. The airport has vowed to appeal. But the UK government has taken a notably lukewarm approach since the ruling prompting concerns about its long-term commitment to expansion, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson himself having been a previous critic of the plans.

But Cameron said: “If the UK government is truly invested in making Scotland and the UK more global to support its full economic potential after Brexit, it must support Heathrow Airport in its ambitions to expand capacity to demonstrate that we are open for business and also mindful of the environmental impacts.”

Heathrow expansion would deliver “billions of pounds in economic growth” to Scotland, according to the SCC. It would support Scottish exporters through doubling cargo capacity through an “unrivalled” long-haul route network.

If the third runways is blocked, it would have a “negative impact” on both Scottish and UK business’s ability to invest and trade internationally.

The Scottish Government has previously supported Heathrow expansion, although Nicola Sturgeon indicated recently this is now being reviewed in line with its commitment to tackle the climate emergency.

Sunak will set out his budget on Wednesday. Cameron said the spending plans must help deliver action to “boost growth” and warned against “political posturing” in Brexit trade talks which could scupper a deal which works for Scottish firms.

Meanwhile, Scots local council body Cosla says that any extra cash in the Chancellor’s budget for Scotland should be made available to them. The recent deal struck between the SNP and the Greens did provide an extra £95 million for local authorities on the original proposals. But Cosla insists a £200m shortfall in their budget is still looming after inflation is taken into account.

Cosla’s Resources Spokesperson, Councillor Gail Macgregor, said: “The bottom line is that Scottish local government needs more money for the essential services it delivers to communities.

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“There is every possibility that there will be more money coming to Scotland… we will be pushing for money for local government over and above the assumptions made by the Scottish Government.”

Cosla president, Councillor Alison Evison, added: “Councils across Scotland still face significant budget pressures because of inflation and demand which the Scottish Government Budget doesn’t recognise.”

She added: “If left unaddressed, the impact of these severe cuts will continue to be felt.”