Scotland politics

Greens: SNP 'bailed out' Theresa May over Heathrow

Plane arriving at Heathrow Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption People living near Heathrow are concerned about the environmental and noise impact of more flights

The co-convenor of the Scottish Greens has launched a scathing attack on the Scottish government over its support for a third runway at Heathrow.

Patrick Harvie said the move meant Scottish ministers had surrendered their commitment to climate justice.

He said the SNP had "bailed out" the prime minister, who faces a revolt among her own MPs over the issue.

The Scottish government insists the new runway will have major economic benefits for Scotland.

UK Transport Secretary Chris Grayling announced on Tuesday that the Heathrow expansion had been chosen as the government's preferred option ahead of a rival bid by Gatwick.

The Scottish government formally backed the Heathrow bid after the airport made a list of commitments to Scotland, including creating up to 16,000 jobs and investing £200m in the country.

Heathrow also said it would help to develop new domestic routes to Scottish airports, and would investigate whether Prestwick Airport - which is owned by the Scottish government - could be used as a "logistics hub" for the new runway.

Speaking at First Minister's Questions, Mr Harvie said Scotland's commitment to climate justice apparently "doesn't apply to people living under the flight paths at Heathrow".

He said a third runway would cause a quarter of a million extra flights a year and a massive increase to emissions - which he said was the single biggest threat to the whole of the UK meeting its climate change targets.

It would leave thousands of people's homes too noisy and too polluted to live in, and unknown tens of thousands more left suffering the damaging health effects, Mr Harvie claimed.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Mr Harvie and Ms Sturgeon recently joined the leaders of the three other Holyrood parties to highlight their commitment to tackle climate change

He added: "I can only imagine the outrage, and I would join it, from the Scottish government and from their colleagues at Westminster if the UK government was to inflict this kind of damage on so many lives in Glasgow or in Inverness or in Dundee in exchange for alleged economic self-interest.

"Yet they will now troop through the voting lobbies to bail out a Tory prime minister who stood for election saying no ifs, no buts, no third runway.

"What is the point of a principle like climate justice when it is surrendered so easily?"

Mr Harvie described Heathrow's estimate of 180,000 jobs created by the plans as "pie in the sky" and "about as believable as the job projection figures for Donald Trump's golf course".

Referring to the presence of Heathrow representatives at the recent SNP conference in Glasgow, he said: "We're not surely going to fall for this are we? What were the Heathrow bosses putting in the drinks at SNP conference?"

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionHeathrow's tricky landing - in 60 secs

In response, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the decision was one for UK ministers, but her government had looked at the option that would deliver the greatest benefit to Scotland's economy and connectivity.

She said: "On the economy there's the potential for significant construction spend in Scotland and thousands of jobs.

"In the nearer term there is potential for a supply chain hub at Prestwick, which is extremely important in terms of economic impact and jobs, a £10m route development fund, a reduction starting in January in passenger charges that will make service between Scotland and Heathrow much more viable and a new marketing campaign as well.

"These are the reasons on which our decision was based."

The first minister also said Scotland had a "strong record" on meeting climate change targets and had shown "global leadership" by including aviation emissions in reduction targets.

She added: "These will always be difficult decisions to strike, and difficult balances to strike, but meeting our climate-change targets but also ensuring we have the infrastructure to enable our economy to grow and support jobs - these are not mutually-exclusive objectives."