South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has sought assurances from the Scottish Government about the future of Prestwick airport, after talks over a possible sale dragged into their eighth month.
The local MSP has tabled a series of Written Parliamentary questions asking the Scottish Government to confirm it is still in detailed talks with a preferred bidder selected in February; whether it has a firm bid on the table for the sale of the airport and whether any sale will protect existing jobs and ensure the £40m of Government loans to the airport will be fully repaid by any new owner.
The questions have been tabled after Colin Smyth raised the issue with the First Minister in the Scottish Parliament last month but was given no clear answers over progress of any sale.
The Scottish Government appointed a preferred bidder for the airport in February 2021. It came more than three months after a previous bidder pulled out and talks on the sale of the airport collapsed.
Since then there has been suggestions that the current preferred bidder withdrew their original offer and has now tabled a far lower offer for Prestwick, amid concerns that the costs to upgrade facilities at the airport, including the runway, are far higher than originally envisaged.
Questioning Nicola Sturgeon at First Minister’s Questions on 23 September- the day after she visited Spirit AeroSystems new innovation centre at Prestwick Airport – Coin Smyth said: “Yesterday, the First Minister visited Prestwick airport, where the elephant in the room was the future of the airport itself.
“The chief executive of Edinburgh Airport has said that Prestwick is “doomed”. More than six months after a preferred bidder was chosen, can the First Minister tell us whether the sale of Prestwick is going ahead? If it is, when will that happen? Will that sale guarantee the existing jobs and the full repayment of the £40 million of loans?
In response to the question, the First Minister said the Government “will set out further details…in due course”.
Commenting on his latest Parliamentary questions, Colin Smyth said: “It’s now nearly eight months since the Scottish Government appointed a preferred bidder for the sale of the airport but we don’t seem to be any further forward.
“It’s clear there is a gap between any bid for the airport and what the Government is prepared to sell it for, and also speculation that the airport wasn’t open with the bidder about the level of investment needed to upgrade the site and as a result the bid has been lowered considerably.
“When the sale of Prestwick was first announced, I argued that it should only go ahead if the buyer agrees to pay back the tens of millions of pounds loaned to the airport from the public purse and existing jobs at the airport are secured and if this can’t be agreed then the airport should remain open and run under public ownership.
“The SNP Government should not agree to a cut-price sale just so they can get shot of the airport, if that sells out both the tax-payer who is owed millions of pounds in unpaid loans, and the workforce whose jobs are ultimately on the line depending on the outcome of any sales bid. Any new owner needs to have clear plans to protect and grow jobs at the airport.
“We need answers and assurances from the Scottish Government over the future of Prestwick Airport.”