Scotland politics

Scottish government backs Heathrow expansion

Plane flying over Heathrow sign Image copyright Reuters

The Scottish government has said it is backing the plan to add a third runway at London's Heathrow airport.

The project has been heavily debated for a number of years, but Scottish ministers have said it offers significant strategic and economic benefits for Scotland.

The government said this would include up to 16,000 new jobs.

Heathrow Airport and the Scottish government have signed a Memorandum of Understanding.

This will highlight a number of commitments by Heathrow Airport, including the new jobs.

If the expansion goes ahead, about £200m would be spent on construction in Scotland, £10m for new domestic routes, and there would be a commitment to investigate Prestwick Airport as a potential site for a logistics hub to support the building of the third runway.

Keith Brown, the cabinet secretary for economy, jobs and fair work, told BBC Radio Scotland that it was the "best deal for Scotland".

Long haul

Speaking on the Good Morning Scotland programme, he said: "In the absence of action from the UK government, we have made this decision and we would urge them to act as quickly as possible."

The UK government said that it will "shortly announce" a decision on airport expansion, with another runway at Gatwick also in the running.

Environmental campaigners, local authorities near Heathrow and some MPs have raised concerns about the project.

Asked if this was a "green policy", Mr Brown said increasing the number of direct long-haul flights to Scotland could reduce the number of more "damaging" short-haul connections to Heathrow.

He said many people flying directly to Scotland would want to know about onward connections to London.

Mr Brown said the UK needs to have an international hub airport, but was facing "real pressure" from Schiphol, Istanbul and Dubai - and that short-haul connections with those airports would be "even more environmentally damaging" than those to Heathrow.

A spokesman for Gatwick Airport said he was "surprised" by the Scottish government's decision to back a third runway at Heathrow, which he said would "undermine Scotland's connections with the world, making it more dependent on London and the South East of England".

He added: "Some of the suggested benefits to Scotland are unlikely to bear serious scrutiny, which makes the decision all the more curious.

"However, we are confident that expansion will happen at Gatwick and that competition will prevail over the old-fashioned monopoly being planned by Heathrow. That would be the best outcome for Scotland."

The operators of Edinburgh Airport said they believed Gatwick "offered the better deal for Scotland" and described the Heathrow plan as "undeliverable" and potentially "bad for passengers".

'Greater clarity'

A spokesman added: "We are now urging the Scottish government to give greater clarity on their planned cut to Air Passenger Duty (APD) - and we are calling on them to confirm that proposals will deliver a 50% cut in one move to create the greatest growth, generate jobs and support the economy."

Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said the Scottish government's announcement was disappointing.

He told Good Morning Scotland that a third runway at Heathrow would increase passenger traffic by about 70% by 2030.

"If you're concerned about climate change, the last thing you want to do is let aviation grow even more," he said.

"It's the fastest source of greenhouse gases, it's not really under control, and if we're to meet international targets... we can't possibly expand aviation much more than where it is today globally."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Gatwick Airport has also put forward proposals for another runway

Mr Dixon also raised questions over the promises of mass job creation.

"If you're better connected, if it's easier to fly somewhere else, then people will do their business elsewhere," he said.

"This actually takes business, jobs and money out of Scotland as well as bring it in and it kind of balances out."

Heathrow Airport has also committed to a reduction of £10 per passenger on landing charges paid by airlines operating services from Heathrow to Scotland from January.

This will benefit existing services from Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness and incentivise the introduction of new services.

It has also agreed to a significant, long-term marketing campaign at Heathrow to promote Scotland and a procurement event in Glasgow to enhance opportunities for Scottish firms to win business with Tier 1 Heathrow suppliers.

Image caption The Scottish government and Heathrow Airport have signed a memorandum of understanding

Mr Brown said: "We have engaged extensively with both airports during this process and considered all options very carefully. Gatwick's proposals are also to be commended.

"However, Heathrow's plan offers significant job creation, major investment opportunities and, crucially, seeks to address how all of Scotland's airports benefit from the new runway capacity when it comes and also in the lead-up period.

"The potential for a logistics hub to be based at Glasgow Prestwick Airport is also an important part of the Heathrow offer. It would support the pre-fabrication of components for the construction phase, with potential for future work beyond the launch of the third runway, bringing strong economic benefits to the airport and the wider Ayrshire economy."

John Holland-Kaye, chief executive of Heathrow Airport, said: "It would facilitate more airlines flying routes to Scottish airports, meaning more flights, more competition and choice for families and businesses across the nation. That also means more visitors to Scotland, more destinations for Scottish tourists and more opportunity for Scottish businesses to reach new export markets.

"This partnership demonstrates how Heathrow expansion can work for every region and nation of the UK."

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