SCOTLAND could be set for a new airport after military chiefs opened the door for one of their bases to be shared with commercial airlines.
The RAF are currently in the process of moving their two Typhoon squadrons from Leuchars in Fife to Lossiemouth in Moray as part of a defence review.
Although the army will be moving to Leuchars in 2015, the base’s runway will still be in use occasionally and the control tower will have to be preserved.
Nearby Dundee airport is struggling to maintain business, partly due to its short 1,400-metre runway, compared to Leuchars’ 2,585 metres, which could cater for much bigger aircraft.
And today the MOD admitted they would be open to sharing the airport with civilians.
A spokesman said: “Under the Army Re-basing Plan announced in 2013, the army is scheduled to take over Leuchars by summer 2015.
“Typhoon aircraft will transfer to RAF Lossiemouth. However, the RAF’s East of Scotland Universities Air Squadron and No 12 Air Experience Flight will remain.
“The MoD is happy in principle to speak to any organisation that wishes to look into the possible use of Leuchars as a commercial airfield.
“However, any plans would need to take into account Leuchars will continue as a military base.”
Low-cost airline Ryanair welcomed the news, along with businesses in Dundee.
A spokeswoman said: “We are currently in discussion with over 100 airports, so competition for Ryanair growth is fierce.
“However, the runway at Dundee Airport is too short for our aircraft type 737 to 800s.”
Lindsay Darroch, partner and head of property at Blackadders solicitors in Dundee, said: “I would urge Scottish and local governments to redevelop Leuchars airbase and make it an international airport.
“This to me would be an obvious next piece of the jigsaw and would have a huge impact on the local economy and the local housing market.”
Dundee University scientist Professor Sir Philip Cohen said moving Dundee airport to Leuchars would be a “huge opportunity” for the area.
He added: “A new civil airport at Leuchars would attract a huge amount of tourists as well as business traffic and would be highly viable.”
Dundee airport has struggled in recent times and just announced CityJet’s flights to London City will stop at the end of next month.
Flybe have stepped in with a temporary service to London Stansted but the city council is searching for a more concrete arrangement.
Despite Dundee airport’s problems, City Council leader Ken Guild opposed the idea of moving their business to RAF Leuchars.
He said: “To follow through on any suggestion that another ‘local’ airport should be created would be a massively expensive, time-consuming and complex undertaking.
“We have an airport at Dundee right now which has sufficient infrastructure and a long track record of handling commercial flights.
“All of our energies are currently being directed at attracting an operator to fly from Dundee to London and these will continue until that is achieved.
“When it is, I would hope that the service will be supported by the business and academic communities in the city who have a need to travel to London and the south east of England.”