Pressure mounts on SNP over Prestwick bailout cost

THE spiralling cost to taxpayers of bailing out Prestwick Airport should be set out in a ministerial statement to MSPs, opposition parties have said.

Prestwick will need £40m in loans to carry on operating. Picture: John Devlin

It emerged yesterday that the airport will need £40 million in Scottish Government loans to keep afloat in the next few years – double the initial estimates.

Ministers were aware of this cost last year, but it only came to light when public spending watchdog Audit Scotland published a report yesterday.

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who presided over the £1 purchase of the airport to save it from closure in 2013, did not reveal this in appearances before Holyrood committees.

Labour infrastructure spokeswoman Mary Fee said: “Workers in Ayrshire and Scottish taxpayers deserve proper transparency from the SNP government in Edinburgh about the action they are taking on Prestwick, not half the story.

“The SNP did not tell the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish people that the investment needed was nearly £40m when they had at least two separate opportunities to do so. That simply is not good enough.

“The SNP government should deliver a statement to parliament as soon as possible to explain why this information was withheld, and give workers and taxpayers alike the proper story.”

The SNP government has only budgeted to loan £25m to Prestwick Airport by the end of March 2016.

Passenger growth of 10.2 per cent in the first five years after purchase was predicted, but the watchdog says this was “optimistic”.

This figure was scaled back six months later, but growth of 6.5 per cent was still envisaged by ministers. In fact, passengers numbers fell by 15 per cent in the first year of operation.