Doubts raised

‘Price hitch’ holding up sale of Prestwick Airport

Prestwick Airport

The Ayrshire airport’s future is again in doubt

Prestwick Airport’s future is again in doubt amid speculation that the buyer wants to cut the price demanded by the Scottish Government.

Ministers say negotiations are ongoing, but sources say they have stalled over the government’s expectations.

It was announced in February that the government’s original preferred bidder – understood to be Glasgow and Aberdeen airport owner AGS – pulled out.

French firm Vinci, owner of Gatwick and Belfast International airports, has declined to confirm that it is the new bidder.

Prestwick chief executive Stewart Adams, who had stayed on to help with the sale after stepping down from his post in May, has now left. He was replaced by deputy chief executive and chief financial officer Ian Forgie.

Transport Scotland said the process of returning the airport to the private sector was ongoing, but told The Scotsman that “decisions have still to be taken in relation to the prospective sale of the business”.

Negotiations are said to be focused on whether a buyer would take on the £43.4 million loan from the Scottish Government to keep the airport operating since it was bought for a nominal £1 in 2013 to avert closure by New Zealand owners Infratil and hundreds of job losses.

The government put the airport back on the market in 2019. Transport Scotland said the loan had still to be repaid.

A source told the newspaper: “My understanding is that the preferred bidder is still waiting for an answer on a new lower bid.”

Scottish Conservatives transport spokesperson Graham Simpson said: “It’s time the SNP came clean on what’s going on here.

“We know there was a preferred bidder. We also know there was a hitch.

A spokesperson for Prestwick Airport said: “Glasgow Prestwick Airport is operated on a commercial basis and at arm’s length from the Scottish Government.

“Ministers do not intervene in the commercial discussions at the airport.

“The process to return the airport to the private sector continues and decisions have still to be taken in relation to the prospective sale of the business.”

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