SNP abstain on Heathrow expansion vote despite Scottish Government backing

A plane comes in to land above Myrtle Avenue, a residential street in Heathrow. A third runway could lead to demolitions in the area. Picture: SWNS
A plane comes in to land above Myrtle Avenue, a residential street in Heathrow. A third runway could lead to demolitions in the area. Picture: SWNS
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The SNP was accused of putting “nationalist interests before the national interest” by abstaining on a vote on Monday evening to approve expansion of Heathrow, despite the Scottish Government signing off on the case for a third runway at the airport.

Nationalist MPs refused to back the £14bn privately-funded expansion plan, which a 2016 memorandum of understanding between Heathrow and the Scottish Government agreed would bring 16,000 new jobs to Scotland and lead to new flight connections to London.

Transport spokesman Alan Brown told the Commons that the UK Government had “failed to make the case for Scotland” by not offering guarantees that new and existing routes would be legally protected.

Mr Brown warned that an expanded Heathrow could become a “ghost airport” if business and tourism decline after Brexit, a claim the Scottish Conservatives dismissed as “laughable”.

“Heathrow expansion will bring huge benefits to Scotland yet the SNP have ignored that in order to pursue their agenda of disruption at Westminster,” Tory MP Luke Graham said. “They have put their nationalist interests before the national interest - and they should be ashamed.”

Transport secretary Chris Grayling revealed Heathrow had made a last-minute offer to double the number of slots available for Scottish routes from 100 to 200.

Two years ago, economy secretary Keith Brown signed the MoU with Heathrow and urged the UK Government to “end its costly prevarication on airport expansion and support Heathrow’s plans”.

The agreement commits Heathrow to spending £200m in Scotland during construction of the new runway, and the airport has already reduced landing costs for regional links.

However, yesterday a Scottish Government source said there had been a “relative lack of detail on the supposed benefits” and added that ministers were also seeking direct international routes from Scottish airports.

The vote to approve expansion was expected to pass last night thanks to a rebellion by around 40 Labour MPs who pledged to break an order from Jeremy Corbyn to oppose a third runway at Heathrow.

However, the Labour leader said he could change his position if he was elected. Unions support Heathrow’s expansion plans, which are set to be challenged in the courts by environmental groups and at least four London councils.

Foreign secretary Boris Johnson flew to Afghanistan to avoid the vote, which could have seen him forced to quit the Government. Mr Johnson had previously pledged to “lay down in front of the bulldozers” to stop a third runway.

He defended his decision not to take part in the vote, saying his resignation would have achieved “absolutely nothing”.