Ministers enter talks to safeguard Glasgow Prestwick Airport

Prestwick Airport has been on the market since March 2012. The Scottish Government, in partnership with Scottish Enterprise and South Ayrshire Council, has been working with current owners Infratil to help find a private buyer.

Despite those efforts and interest from potential investors, the process has now reached a point where it’s clear that no private buyer will be able to take the purchase forward in an acceptable timescale to the current owner.

Ms Sturgeon said: “Prestwick Airport’s importance to the local Ayrshire and wider Scottish economy cannot be overstated – and it is vital that all efforts are made to keep the airport open.

“Around 300 people depend directly on the airport for employment and, in total, there are around 1,400 people whose jobs depend on or are associated with the airport. Unemployment in Ayrshire is already above the Scottish average and the loss of Prestwick Airport would exacerbate this situation.

“Taking account of the aerospace cluster at Prestwick, there are a total of 3,200 jobs directly or indirectly associated with the airport. Whilst the aerospace jobs are not directly dependent on the airport, it acts as an anchor for these businesses. It is undoubtedly the case that this important part of the Ayrshire economy would be less secure in the future without the continued operation of Prestwick Airport.

“Prestwick also has important resilience capabilities that provide alternative options to Glasgow and Edinburgh in the event of severe weather conditions.

“Today, I am announcing that the Scottish Government has advised the current owners Infratil of our intention to commence a process towards acquisition of Prestwick Airport.

“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. The airport is, and will continue to be, open for business.

“Once a transaction has been completed, I will make a further statement to Parliament.

“With perseverance, patience and innovative thinking Prestwick can have a positive future as part of the wider Scottish aviation industry.”

Ministers are entering into negotiations with Infratil over the potential acquisition of Prestwick Aviation Holdings Limited and its subsidiaries, subject to the completion of due diligence and the appropriate legal processes.

During that process, Infratil would continue to operate the airport as a going concern to maintain its assets and keep it open for business.

Leader of South Ayrshire Council, Councillor Bill McIntosh said: “South Ayrshire Council warmly welcomes the announcement today from the Deputy First Minister.

“Prestwick Airport and the engineering jobs that it supports are hugely important for Ayrshire and for Scotland as a whole.

“We look forward to working closely with the Scottish Government to ensure a long-term future for Prestwick Airport that builds on the substantial contribution it already makes to the Scottish economy.”

Marko Bogoievski, Chief Executive Officer at Infratil said: “In March 2012 Infratil announced its intention to sell its two UK airports, Glasgow Prestwick Airport and Manston Kent Airport as part of a process to refocus its investment profile.

“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 that a Scottish Government acquisition of Glasgow Prestwick Airport achieves that objective and will work proactively with the Scottish Government over the next six weeks towards achieving completion of a transaction.”

Adrian Gillespie, managing director of operations at Scottish Enterprise said: “Prestwick Airport is a vital part of both the local economy in Ayrshire and the wider Scottish economy, supporting a high number of jobs and businesses.

“We are committed to working closely with our partners to achieve a sustainable future for both the airport and all it delivers for our economy and our communities.”

Notes to editors

The Scottish Government already has responsibility for 11 airports and others are owned by an operated by local authorities.

In England and Wales some major airports are owned wholly or substantially by the public sector. These include Manchester, Stansted, Newcastle and Cardiff, which was recently bought by the Welsh Assembly Government.

The Scottish Government intends to complete due diligence and detailed negotiations with Infratil on the terms of sale in a 6 week period and to do so on a commercial basis.

Infratil put Glasgow Prestwick Airport on the market in March 2012 along with Manston Airport in Kent.

Published 8 Oct 2013