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Government buys airport for £1

Glasgow Prestwick Airport is now in public ownership after it was bought by the Scottish Government for £1.

The deal to purchase loss-making Prestwick from New Zealand company Infratil has been completed six weeks after the Scottish Government announced plans to secure its future.

The South Ayrshire airport remains open for business and its staff remain in employment, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said.

The sale was welcomed by Labour and the Conservatives but the leader of Glasgow City Council voiced concerns that making Prestwick a commercial success may come at the expense of Glasgow Airport.

Ms Sturgeon said: "This acquisition secures continuity of service and we will now begin work, with our local partners, on developing our vision for the business so we can maximise its contribution to the local, regional and national economy.

"Senior advisory staff will be appointed on an interim basis to make recommendations on strategic business development, building on the commercial opportunities identified during the acquisition process, and on longer-term management arrangements."

The Scottish Government said it now expects to engage a commercial partner to operate the airport on its behalf, in conjunction with existing staff.

Further details will come in a statement to the Scottish Parliament later.

The airport had been offered for sale since March last year. Private investors had shown interest but none was able to commit on a timescale acceptable to Infratil, Ms Sturgeon said when the plan was first announced.

About 300 people depend directly on the airport for employment and a further 1,400 are associated with the hub 45 minutes from Glasgow.

Infratil chief executive Marko Bogoievski said: "Recognising the importance of the airport to the local communities and regional and national economy, Infratil's preference has always been to secure a new owner with the capacity to support the future success of Glasgow Prestwick Airport.

"We believe that a Scottish Government acquisition achieves that objective and Infratil Limited is very pleased to have successfully completed the transaction."

Conservative MSP for Ayr John Scott said t here was a cause for optimism, with increasing passenger numbers and a rise in freight volumes.

"The Scottish Government can take great advantage of this with the right marketing and strategic approach," he said.

Labour's infrastructure spokesman, James Kelly, said: "Now we need to start looking at the business plan to reinvigorate the airport and support the jobs at Prestwick and the wider Ayrshire economy."

Gordon Matheson, leader of Glasgow City Council, said: "While I've said that I support efforts to save jobs at Prestwick, I'm still unclear how the Scottish Government can build a sound business case for Prestwick as a passenger airport without skewing the market at Glasgow's expense.

"Given Prestwick's significant annual loss under its previous owners and the fact that no private investors considered it a viable acquisition, it is difficult to see how the Government can make it a success as a passenger airport within State Aid rules."

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