Business leaders have called on the new Conservative government to act decisively on airport expansion or risk Britain’s global competitiveness and growth prospects.
The Whitehall-appointed Airports Commission is due to make a final recommendation to ministers in the next few weeks on whether Heathrow or Gatwick should get a new runway – a move that is likely to have a knock-on impact on capacity at Scottish airports.
One hundred top executives have backed a call by the pro-expansion campaign group Let Britain Fly urging ministers to make “a bold and early decision” on the new runway. Among the signatories are a number of Scots, including Aberdeen Asset Management chief executive Martin Gilbert and the chairman of Barrhead Travel, Bill Munro.
Let Britain Fly director Gavin Hayes said: “The new government should use its fresh mandate and make a bold and early decision to build a new runway. With all of London’s airports forecast to be full by 2030, kicking the can down the road is no longer an option.
“This will be one of the first big issues that will test whether the government is capable of making strategic decisions in the national interest.
“The Conservatives pledged in their manifesto they would ‘respond to the Airports Commission’s final report’. To maintain the trust and confidence of the business community, it’s essential that response is both positive and timely.
“After almost three years of debating the issue, a commission decision-day is fast approaching.”
The business leaders have put their names to a statement which reads: “Expanding our international connectivity is fundamental to ensuring Britain remains open for business and would give a much-needed boost to trade, tourism, investment and economic growth right across the country.
“By value, 40 per cent of our exports go by air. We trade up to 20 times more with countries we have a direct air link to. With Heathrow already full, Gatwick full by 2020 and most of London’s other airports full by 2030, the demand for expansion is self-evident.”
Let Britain Fly said it was concerned that other countries plan on building more than 50 new runways between now and 2036.
It added: “Decades of inaction mean we are falling behind our competitors.”
If one of two Heathrow runway options on the commission’s shortlist is recommended, the UK government would face opposition by some Tory MPs, including London mayor Boris Johnson, who has just been elected for nearby Uxbridge and South Ruislip.
Richmond Park Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith is another who is opposed to Heathrow expansion, as is former transport secretary and now International Development Secretary Justine Greening.
Signatories on the Let Britain Fly statement also include John Longworth, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce; Simon Walker, director-general of the Institute of Directors; Sir Mike Rake, chairman of BT Group; Robert Noel, chief executive of property giant Land Securities; and Sir Martin Sorrell, the founder and chief executive of advertising heavyweight WPP.