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Cost to taxpayer on the rise

Prestwick airport ‘expected to stay in public hands for years’

Prestwick AirportPrestwick Airport is expected to stay in public hands for some years and at a cost of almost £40 million to the taxpayer, according to auditors who continue to ask questions about the decision to acquire the loss-making facility.

It was bought by the Scottish government for £1 in November 2013 in a move which was broadly regarded as a political gesture less than a year before the indpendence referendum.

The airport directly and indirectly supports between 1,300 and 1,800 jobs, and 3,200 when the wider aerospace “cluster” in the Ayrshire area is taken into account.

Audit Scotland says in an update today that the government intends to sell the airport back to the private sector, but there is no timetable. Its estimate is that this could take several years, possibly a decade.

The government has so far set aside for £25.2 million, made up of a £9m loan and a further £16.2m to the end of March next year. Audit Scotland said the required total funding up to 2021-22 could hit £39.6m.

Falling passenger numbers and few airlines using the airport have meant it has made losses for years and defied attempts by successive owners to turn a profit. Critics regard it as a white elephant, but the Holyrood administration is determined to do what it can to ensure it survives. It has been identified as a potential location for space travel.

Today is also the deadline for applications from candidates applying for three non-executive directorships.

The airport will be run by a two-tier board and one NXD will chair both.

Headhunters Odgers Berndtson are seeking one with experience in marketing, PR and stakeholder management across public and private sectors. The second will have an engineering background and will understand capital cost, licensing issues etc. The third will have a commercial property and estate development background.

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