Labour criticises secrecy

Glasgow Airport owner bids for loss-making Prestwick

Prestwick airport

A preferred bidder has been lined up for Prestwick

Glasgow Airport owner AGS Airports is believed to be the preferred bidder lined up to acquire Prestwick Airport.

Transport Secretary Michael Matheson yesterday declined to reveal the identity of the buyer but The Scotsman later reported that AGS is in talks with the government.

The Ayrshire airport was taken into public ownership in 2013 following a series of heavy losses.

Transport Secretary Michael Matheson, who yesterday announced he was terminating Abellio’s ScotRail contract, said today he had accepted a recommendation from the airport’s operators to appoint a preferred bidder for Prestwick.

His refusal to name the bidder drew criticism from Scottish Labour who accused the Government of sneaking out the news on the last day of parliament before the Christmas recess, thereby denying MSPs the opportunity to raise questions.

Ministers put the airport up for sale in the summer and last month said it had received a number of bids.

In a written statement on Thursday, the minister said the Scottish government had made it clear in 2013 that it intended to return Prestwick to the private sector “when the time was right”.

He said: “We were pleased that the opportunity to buy the business, set out in the Official Journal of the European Union, attracted considerable interest.

“Following careful consideration of the bids received, I have accepted a recommendation made by TS Prestwick HoldCo to appoint a preferred bidder.

“To protect the integrity of the process I am not able to disclose the identity of the bidder at this time but we remain satisfied that good progress is being made in the interests of the business.”

Accounts filed with Companies House showed the Scottish government-owned airport cut its operating losses from £3m to £1m.

South Scotland MSP and Scottish Labour’s Transport Spokesperson Colin Smyth said: “The Government talks about protecting the integrity of the process but the decision to sneak this news out on the last day of Parliament, with no opportunity for scrutiny by MSPs brings that whole process into disrepute.

“We were told that any sale would be agreed by October. Two months later we are told the government have affectively accepted a bid but they will keep the details secret and won’t provide a timetable for the completion of any sale.

“There are over 300 direct jobs and thousands more indirect at Prestwick, so this will be an anxious time for the Ayrshire community, who are being left in the dark.

“There is no reason whatsoever why the government cannot answer the basic questions of whether this proposed sale guarantees to secure and grow jobs at Prestwick and whether there is agreement with the preferred bidder that the almost £40 million loaned to Prestwick Airport will be paid back in full by them if the sale is completed.”

Scottish Conservative transport spokesman Jamie Greene said: “If there is positive news about a potential buyer for Prestwick Airport then that process should be allowed to take course and progress.

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