Scottish government acquires Prestwick Airport for £1

The Scottish government has bought the ailing Prestwick Airport for £1.00, bringing it under public ownership, The BBC has reported.

The facility was put up for sale last year by New Zealand firm, Infratil, after having incurred annual losses of £2m.

According to deputy first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, the deal will help to protect the airport and the jobs it supported. The government will now work towards ‘turning Prestwick around and making it a viable enterprise,’ she told BBC Scotland.

Ms. Sturgeon said: ‘It’s a good decision and I’m glad we’ve reached this outcome, because it allows us to protect not just the asset of Prestwick Airport but the jobs that directly and indirectly depend on it.

‘This is not a decision we have taken lightly. We would have preferred to see a private company buy Prestwick Airport but the strategic and economic importance of Prestwick Airport is such that we weren’t prepared to see Prestwick close,’ she added.

The deputy first minister said that the government would run the airport on ‘a commercial basis’ and do everything it could to make it profitable as soon as possible.

‘First and foremost we need to make sure that the airport is operating on the right basis,’ she said, adding: ‘We’ve made clear our intention to have a separate company to run the airport for us.’

The deal has evoked mixed reactions. Councillor Bill McIntosh, leader of South Ayrshire Council, welcomed the move, saying: ‘The airport is vital to the local and national economy and this excellent news will be a huge relief for the 1,400 people employed there – and for those companies directly involved with the freight, training, maintenance and repair operations at the site, supporting an additional 3,200 jobs.’

However, the viability of the Prestwick deal has been questioned by Glasgow councillor, Gordon Matheson, despite his support for efforts to save jobs at Prestwick.

‘Given Prestwick’s significant annual loss under its previous owners and the fact that no private investors considered it a viable acquisition, it is difficult to see how the Government can make it a success as a passenger airport within State Aid rules,’ he said.

The full terms of the agreement with Infratil and the Scottish government’s business plan for the Ayrshire facility will be made public at a later date, Ms. Sturgeon said.

Scottish government to takeover Prestwick Airport

The Scottish Government has agreed to buy the ailing Prestwick airport in a move that should prevent nearly 1,400 job losses, The Scotsman has reported.

Taking the airport into public ownership was the only alternative, as its owners would otherwise have closed it after they failed to find a buyer, deputy first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, reportedly told the MSPs. The airport, which suffers £7 million a year in operating and building losses, is likely to be in state ownership for several years, Ms Sturgeon said, without disclosing the terms of the transaction.

Saving Scotland’s fourth busiest airport would require a ‘wide-ranging efficiency programme and disposal of surplus assets,’ she said. The airport provides around 300 jobs internally, and a further 1,100 jobs, including those in associated and nearby firms that depend on the airport.

Ms Sturgeon added: ‘The Scottish Government has advised the current owners of our intention to commence a process towards acquisition of Prestwick airport.’

Under the government plan, a ‘commercial partner’ will run the airport on behalf of ministers before it will be sold back to the private sector. According to Ms. Sturgeon, New Zealand-based owner, Infratil, which has owned the airport since 2001, would have shut the airport if it had not secured a sale to the public sector.

She was optimistic about the airport’s prospects, despite passenger traffic having dropped to half its peak of 2.4 million in 2006.

Ms Sturgeon said: ‘We believe Prestwick airport can have a positive future. It will require investment and it will take time. Over the next few weeks we will focus on due diligence, legal and commercial issues around public ownership and the development of a business plan that will allow Prestwick to thrive once again. I want to stress to staff and passengers booked to fly from Prestwick that in the meantime it is business as usual at the airport.’

Infratil chief executive, Marko Bogoievski, said that the airport had been put up for sale in March 2012 ‘as part of a process to refocus its investment profile’.

He said: ‘Recognising the importance of the airports to their local communities, Infratil’s preference has been to secure a new owner with the capacity to support their future success.

‘We believe a Scottish Government acquisition of Prestwick achieves that objective, and will work pro-actively with the Scottish Government over the next six weeks towards achieving completion of a transaction.’

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: ‘Once the Scottish Government has completed its due diligence and is content to proceed, it will negotiate a purchase price with Infratil that will aim to maximise the return for taxpayers’ investment.’

Prestwick Airport honours Scotland’s aviation champions

In a new Hall of Fame, Prestwick Airport in Scotland will honour those key figures in aeronautics and engineering that led the development of Scottish aviation.

The initiative was launched on July 25, which marks the 100th anniversary of flights from the Ayrshire airport. It is part of the run-up to the inaugural Prestwick World Festival of Flight next month. Similar halls have been established in the United States, Canada and Australia.

Among the first to take their place in the Hall of Fame is Winifred Drinkwater, who captained a Glasgow to Campbeltown flight for Midland and Scottish Air Ferries in April 1933, becoming the first woman to pilot a scheduled service.

The others to be honoured include David McIntyre and Douglas Douglas-Hamilton – two of the most significant figures in the development of Scottish aviation, who launched the aircraft firm, Scottish Aviation, and Prestwick Airport after completing the first flight over Everest. Also recognised are Sir Robert Watson-Watt, who pioneered the development of radar, and test pilot Captain Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown, who flew more aircraft types than anyone, and made the first jet aircraft landing on an aircraft carrier.

Festival chair and co-curator, George Kerevan, said: ‘Scotland is very bad at recognising its achievements in the field of aviation or the people who made them. We had the first female commercial airline pilot, the world’s greatest test pilot, Scots were the first to fly over Everest and a Scot invented radar. The Scottish Aviation Hall of Fame seeks to honour these achievements and inspire the next generation.’

National Museums Scotland also supported the initiative. Principal curator of transport, Louise Innes, said: ‘We are delighted to see the pioneers of Scottish aviation being honoured in this way. We are especially pleased to see Douglas Douglas-Hamilton, 14th Duke of Hamilton, receiving recognition in the Hall of Fame as we display products from Scottish Aviation, the company founded by him and fellow inductee David McIntyre, including the Twin Pioneer and the Jetstream, at our National Museum of Flight in East Lothian.’

After Prestwick’s expansion to handle incoming US and Canadian military aircraft during the Second World War, the airport became a transatlantic passenger gateway. It remains the centre of the Scottish aerospace industry, employing 9,000 people.

The flypast on July 25 will commemorate Prestwick’s flying centenary. The Prestwick World Festival of Flight runs from August 30 to September 8, and is set to become an annual celebration of Scottish aviation. Dubbed ‘the world’s first true festival of flight,’ it will include air displays, film and book events, drama and music.

Kerevan said: ‘It will be an exciting new way of exploring aviation and space travel. We have planes, pilots, films, books, music, history and debates over ten days. We want to get young people to think about a career in aerospace.’