SNP government-owned Prestwick Airport’s new all-male board condemned as ‘shameful’

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes has been criticised for an appointment that will make state-owned Prestwick Airport’s board all male despite ministers introducing a law to encourage greater women’s representation.

Jamie Ross, formerly of aviation services group Menzies, has replaced former British Airways executive Valerie Scoular as a non-executive director on the South Ayrshire airport’s seven-person board after the end of her four-year term.

The airport is exempt from the Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Act 2018, which aims to ensure that at least 50 per cent of non-executive roles are filled by women, because it is not classed as a public authority.

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However, the appointment was described as “shameful” by Scottish Labour and “incredibly disappointing” by feminist policy and advocacy body Engender.

The only woman on Scottish Government-owned Prestwick Airport's board has been replaced by a man. Picture: Robert Perry/Getty

By contrast, Highlands and Islands Airports, which is also Scottish Government owned, has five women on its eight-person board.

Private sector Edinburgh Airport has two women among its six board mmbers, while Glasgow Airport, also private, has two women on its seven-strong board, including chair Lena Wilson.

There are two women on the eight-person board of Scottish Government-owned ScotRail Trains, the same split as on that of David MacBrayne, CalMac Ferries’ parent company, which is also state owned.

Among other Scottish Government marine companies, ferry owners Caledonian Maritime Assets has two women on its seven-person board, and the nationalised shipyard Ferguson Marine Port Glasgow one woman on its eight-strong board.

Jamie Ross' appointment has made Prestwick Airport's board all male. Picture: Menzies Aviation

Four of public sector Scottish Canals’ six board members are women, including chair Maureen Campbell and chief executive Catherine Topley.

Forbes said she was “delighted to welcome” Ross to the Prestwick board.

However, Engender spokesperson Alys Mumford said: “It’s incredibly disappointing to see yet another board made up entirely of white men, and exposes the reality that warm words about inclusion and diversity do not lead to change unless they are accompanied by action.

"Transport is an important area of women’s equality, and we know that diverse boards make better decisions.

Valerie Scoular stepped down as Prestwick Airport's sole female board member at the end of her four-year term. Picture: Glasgow Prestwick Airport

"Given the dual crises of climate change and the cost of living, which must be key to the airport’s strategic planning and which both disproportionately impact on women, we would urge the airport to seriously examine why it is in this situation and take steps to make its board more representative of the people of Scotland.”

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Scottish Labour transport spokesperson Colin Smyth said: “Not only has the Scottish Government failed to make any progress towards equal representation for women on the board, they have decided not to have any representation from women at all, and that is shameful.

"How can you encourage companies to ensure women candidates are given an equal opportunity if the Government fail to lead by example."

Scottish Canals chief executive Catherine Topley is among four women who comprise two-thirds of its board. Peter: Peter Devlin

Changing the Chemistry, which campaigns for board diversity, said: “Although we always advocate recruitment on merit, it is disappointing to see an all-male board.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We recognise the importance of ensuring the public appointments process is open to everyone and are continuing to work on encouraging applications from protected groups, including women, disabled people, those from minority ethnic communities and people aged under 50.

“In any public appointment process, the panel recommends to ministers the candidate most suited to the role.

"We will work with the Glasgow Prestwick Airport board to ensure future appointments seek to ensure a better gender balance.”

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