Prestwick Airport ‘has no need for more loans’
Business minister Ivan McKee has challenged Scotland’s public spending auditor over his claim that Prestwick Airport would continue to require financial support from the taxpayer.
The Scottish government has propped up the facility with loans of £43.4 million since it was nationalised in 2013 and last week, Stephen Boyle, the auditor-general, told a Holyrood committee that he did not see that changing under public ownership.
“On an annual basis many millions of pounds of public expenditure are being used to support the airport, to sustain jobs and services within the airport,” he said. “That will remain the case for as long as it remains in public sector hands.”
The auditors now say the airport is valued at just £11.6m.
But Mr McKee told MSPs yesterday that no loan funding has been provided to the airport since 2019, and the budget makes no provision for additional loan funding “as we do not envisage any being required in 2023-24”.
He said: “To be honest, I’m not sure on what basis the auditor-general made that statement, because for the last three years the business at Prestwick airport has been profitable.
“There is no indication that there will be any additional funding required in this financial year. We expect that profitable position to continue into the future.”
The government had intended to sell the airport but it was taken off the market in 2021 after the Scottish Government ended talks with a potential private buyer.
Scottish Conservative shadow transport minister Graham Simpson said last week that the government must recoup the funds provided.
He told the Public Audit Committee last week: ” We don’t have detailed insight over what comes next [with Prestwick Airport]. We know that there had been discussions to find a buyer but that has not yet come to fruition.”
He added: “Since Prestwick is now actually recording profits, the Scottish Government must get its act together and seek to recoup these colossal sums.”