Scottish Government spent £2.5m trying to sell Prestwick Airport

The Scottish Lib Dems say the spendings linked to Prestwick Airport reflect the SNP’s ‘poor economic mismanagement’

The Scottish Government spent over £2.5 million trying to sell off Prestwick Airport.

New figures, released under a Freedom of Information request, show that between August 2017 and March 2023, the Government spent £2,519,779.61 on “professional fees in relation to the sale of Prestwick Airport”.

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The Scottish Government says it is committed to returning the airport in Ayrshire to the private sector, but the Lib Dems say this reflects the SNP’s “poor economic mismanagement”.

Prestwick Airport has been owned by the Scottish Government since 2013Prestwick Airport has been owned by the Scottish Government since 2013
Prestwick Airport has been owned by the Scottish Government since 2013

Back in 2013 the Government bought Prestwick Airport for £1 from New Zealand firm Infratil.

The government then tried to sell the airport on in 2021, putting out notices in the Official Journal of the European Union and Public Contracts Scotland.

The Lib Dems’ economy spokesman Willie Rennie now says the Government needs to come up with a plan to ensure the airport is a “good deal for taxpayers”.

Mr Rennie said: “Lawyers and fixers are getting rich touting around the sale of Prestwick, but it seems like it is to little avail. This is the type of poor economic mismanagement that has come to characterise SNP ministers.

“The Scottish Government needs a plan for Prestwick that recognises the importance of meeting our climate change commitments and getting a good deal for taxpayers.”

Budget airline Ryanair is now the only major passenger airline operating out of Prestwick. During the Covid pandemic, Ryanair expanded its operations in Prestwick from five routes in 2019 to 11 by this summer.

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The rest of the airport is used for cargo services and as a fuel stop by the US air force.

The airport received nearly £70m from the Pentagon over the past six years after fulfilling more than 4,000 orders to refuel US armed forces flights since 2017. Scottish ministers have loaned the airport £43.4m up to 2019, although with interest added on the total is thought to have reached £55m.

The Government says “estimated recoverable loans” would be included in its accounts published later this year.

In May, economy secretary Neil Gray told MSPs the airport was a “good-going concern” as it had an operating profit of £1.9m, and he expected “commercial interest will be forthcoming”.

In August The Scotsman reported it was understood the airport was considering an approach from a potential buyer. An investment firm was believed to have expressed interest in the airport and pledged to inject “significant” development funding.

At the time, no formal offer had been submitted or requested.

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “Glasgow Prestwick Airport was purchased by the Scottish Government to protect jobs and safeguard a strategic infrastructure asset. The airport is currently profitable and the Scottish Government receives expressions of interest periodically regarding its purchase.

“The Glasgow Prestwick Airport management team follow due process in reviewing these offers to ensure they are credible and provide value for money to the taxpayer.

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“Ministers must be confident any sale would not only represent value for the taxpayer, but would put the business on a firm footing.

“It remains the intention of Scottish ministers to return the business to the private sector when the time and circumstances are right for the business and for the Scottish Government as shareholder.”



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