The Scottish Government-owned Glasgow Prestwick Airport has said it “routinely” arranges accommodation for visiting aircrew at President Donald Trump’s Turnberry firm.
Multiple investigations are underway into the US military’s patronage of the loss making hotel and golf resort, and the upsurge in stopovers at the state-owned South Ayrshire airport
The US Air Force has announced an internal inquiry, after conceding that stayovers by its personnel at the US president’s flagship Scottish hotel “might be allowable but not advisable.”
The House Oversight and Reform Committee has launched its own inquiry into spending by the US Defence Department at the airport and resort amid concerns of "serious conflicts of interest.”
Mr Trump tweeted this afternoon that he knew “nothing” about an Air Force plane landing at Prestwick in March and staying at Turnberry. He described it as an airport “I do not own and have nothing to do with,” adding: “Nothing to do with me.”
As previously detailed by The Scotsman’s sister title, Scotland on Sunday, the Trump Organisation formed what it described as an “official partnership” and “strategic alliance” with the airport in 2014 - two years before Mr Trump became president - with the two parties holding unminuted discussions over “potential partnership opportunities” and the “integration” of their businesses.
The growing controversy was sparked by a stayover at Turnberry in March by a US aircrew en route to Kuwait aboard a C-17 military transport plane. A report by Politico quoted one senior US Air Force official who said the decision to refuel at Prestwick and stay at Turnberry was unusual for such a mission.
However, a spokesman for the Scottish Government-owned airport said today that it regularly arranges overnight accommodation for visiting aircrew at Turnberry, as well as other local hotels, but stressed it received no commission from the US president's firm for any bookings.
“Like all airports, we provide a full handling service for customers and routinely arrange overnight accommodation for visiting aircrew when requested,” he said.
“We use over a dozen local hotels, including Trump Turnberry, which accounts for a small percentage of the total hotel bookings we make.
“It’s important to note that we do not pay for aircrew accommodation and take no commission from Trump Turnberry for any bookings made on behalf of our customers.
“All aircrew landing at Glasgow Prestwick settle their bills directly with the hotels involved and, contrary to some claims we have seen, we do not offer free rounds of golf at Trump Turnberry for any aircrew."
As revealed by The Scotsman, the struggling airport has received nearly £14m to refuel US Armed Forces aircraft since October 2017 under a contract with the US Defence Logistics Agency (DLA), which manages the global supply chain for the US Army, Air Force, and Navy.
A new extended deal between Prestwick’s parent company and the DLA, known as a EUCOM Into-Plane contract, will come into force next month and last until September 2024. It will allow for the supply of around 12.4 million gallons of aviation fuel, approximately three million more than the current arrangement.
Since Mr Trump came to office, there has been a marked increase in the number of stopovers - and overnight stays - by air force crews at Prestwick.
While there were just 95 stopovers and 40 overnight stays in 2015, and 145 and 75 respectively the following year, the numbers have since shot up.
In 2017, US military aircraft stopped at Prestwick on 180 times, with 116 overnight stays. That increased to 257 stopovers and 208 overnight stays in 2018.
In the first eight months of 2019 alone, the number stands at 259 stopovers and 220 overnight stays.
It is not known how many of those overnight stays during the four year period were made at Turnberry.
In a statement, the US Air Force said its leadership had directed Air Mobility Command to “review all guidance pertaining to selection of airports and lodging accommodations during international travels.”
It added: “While initial reviews indicate that aircrews transiting through Scotland adhered to all guidance and procedures, we understand that US service members lodging at higher-end accommodations, even if within government rates, might be allowable but not advisable.
“Therefore, we are reviewing all associated guidance. Even when USAF aircrews follow all directives and guidance, we must still be considerate of perceptions of not being good stewards of taxpayers’ funds that might be created through the appearance of aircrew staying at such locations.”