Despite speculation that the expansion at Heathrow Airport announced yesterday (Tuesday, 25 October) will have a detrimental effect on Scottish tourism, Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Keith Brown has welcomed the move and says a third runway at what is already Britain’s biggest airport will bring all UK airports a range of benefits to help grow passenger numbers and continue to build on their individual successes.
He said: “We welcome this decision and look forward to working with Heathrow to bring the significant benefits of a third runway at the airport to Scotland.
“Growing the number of direct international air routes to and from Scotland’s own airports remains a top priority for this Government, but a third runway at Heathrow offers all our airports a range of benefits that will help them grow passenger numbers and continue to build on their successes.
“Expansion at Heathrow 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 is built and also in the lead-up period. We will now work with both Heathrow and the UK Government to ensure commitments made to Scotland are followed through.
“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.
“It’s now crucial that the UK Government starts work on this immediately and puts in place measures to secure guaranteed access to Heathrow for Scotland’s airports. There can be no further costly delays if Scotland, and the UK as a whole, is to reap the rewards on offer.”
easyJet also supports the Government’s decision in favour of expansion at Heathrow Airport and believes this will provide the greatest passenger and economic benefits for the UK.
The airline says expanding Heathrow will benefit all parts of the UK and all passengers – business and leisure, long and short haul – and will also deliver lower fares for short haul passengers by opening up the airport to increased competition.
Carolyn McCall, CEO of easyJet, said: “This is good news for UK consumers and businesses and will help ensure that the UK is better connected to the rest of the world.
“With the right charging structure and the right infrastructure for our efficient model, easyJet plans to operate from Heathrow, in addition to our existing London bases, providing new routes and lower fares to customers.”
The Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI) echoed these sentiments but has stressed that new runway capacity must benefit Scotland’s economy.
The organisation has called for guaranteed access to slots to improve Scotland’s connectivity and for all political parties to commit to delivery.
It points out that the decision follows the evidence-based recommendation of the independent Airports Commission, which also highlighted in its report: “It is crucial to ensure that expansion at Heathrow delivers benefits for all of the nations and regions of the UK” and proposed measures on how the UK Government and Heathrow Airport could support a widespread network of domestic connectivity to and through Heathrow.
SCDI’s director of Policy & Place, Claire Mack, said: “Scotland is a home to some of the UK’s leading international sectors and – as well as the development of more direct routes from Scotland’s airports – global air connectivity through a UK hub in London is of strategic importance to Scotland’s economy.
“SCDI has played an active role in pressing for new capacity to be delivered and it is welcome to see a decision finally being reached after decades of delays and inaction.
“It is vital that new airport capacity works for and benefits the whole UK economy. The UK Government and Heathrow should ensure that approval guarantees access for Scotland’s city regions – especially those with no competitive surface alternative.
“The Airports Commission produced strong evidence that Heathrow is the best option to support our global competitiveness, particularly given its current international networks, and SCDI has found that it is also the preference of Scottish businesses.
“SCDI will now be urging all political parties to commit to implementing this national policy decision and for the UK Government to publish a timetable for its delivery.
“We will also continue to recommend that the Scottish Parliament reduces Air Passenger Duty to help maintain and develop direct routes from Scotland’s airports.”
SCDI’s Highlands & Islands director, Fraser Grieve, added: “The inability of the UK’s largest airports to expand had seen commercially viable domestic routes squeezed out, and we must ensure that we will not see that past experience repeated when this new capacity at Heathrow begins to fill up.
“The north of Scotland continues to see growth in key sectors and plays an increasingly important role in driving our economy. The UK’s Hub airport must work for the whole UK and it is vital to ensure that areas without a competitive surface alternative have access enhanced and safeguarded.
“Since the reinstatement of an Inverness to Heathrow service in May this year we’ve seen a huge surge in visitors to the Highlands & Islands, and improved access for businesses, highlighting the benefit that hub access brings. 40-50% of passengers on this new service have connected through Heathrow from international destinations.
“SCDI are pleased a decision has been reached, but would have hoped swifter progress could be made in order to deliver the increased airport capacity needed to enhance the UK’s competitiveness.”