South Scotland MSP and Scottish Labour’s Transport Spokesperson Colin Smyth believes the sale of Prestwick Airport could herald a bright future for the airport- but only if the right buyer is chosen.
The local MSP made the comments after holding talks with trade unions and management on a visit to the airport this week.
The Scottish Government announced in June that it was putting the airport up for sale, six years since they took it into public ownership after it suffered heavy financial losses.
Following interest from a number of initial parties, a shortlist has been drawn up and number of interested parties have been given until 4 September to lodge detailed offers to buy the airport. If any bid is made, the next stage would be for Ministers to consider whether to agree a “preferred bidder”.
Colin Smyth said, “I believe the decision by the Scottish Government to buy Prestwick airport for a £1 and bring it into public ownership six year ago was the right decision. The alternative would almost certainly have been the closure of the airport and that would have been a loss to Scotland and a real economic tsunami for Ayrshire”.
“That purchase has led to a lot of taxpayers money being loaned to Prestwick and I think the Scottish Government were far too slow to ensure changes were made to the running of the airport to stem the losses it was making”.
“However, in the last two years a great deal has been achieved to turn the financial position of the airport around and it’s clear that has generated interest from a number of potential buyers who see Prestwick once again as a viable airport. Not only are the finances improving but there are other opportunities on the horizon such as a spaceport and hub for Heathrow that could add to that viability, albeit both are far from guaranteed. I hope therefore that a buyer can be found and I genuinely believe a sale could herald a bright future for Prestwick as an airport, and one I hope includes passenger flights”.
“However, this all depends on the right buyer coming forward and being chosen by the Scottish Government and that is still a big if. I’m very clear that any sale cannot simply be a way for the Scottish Government to wash its hands of Prestwick. They must ensure there will be no sale to a company that does not guarantee to secure and grow jobs at the airport Any sale should be also be subject to agreement that there is a clear return to the taxpayer who have seen tens of millions of pounds of their money loaned to the airport. If the right buyer cannot be secured then the Government should set out a clear plan for the running of the airport under public ownership.”