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.