It is time to face the facts over the losses at Prest­wick Air­port

The Herald - - OPINION -

IT is un­der­stand­able that gov­ern­ment min­is­ters won­der if pub­lic funds can be used to save jobs when a busi­ness is threat­ened with clo­sure. But sadly, un­der­writ­ing losses is a very poor use of pub­lic money if there is lit­tle prospect of a re­turn to prof­itabil­ity and this seems to be the case with Prest­wick Air­port (“An­nual loss at Prest­wick Air­port rises to £7 mil­lion”, The Her­ald, Jan­uary 13).

As an­nual losses grow, and the to­tal lost to date reaches £19m, it ap­pears the Gov­ern­ment would have been far bet­ter look­ing to in­vest di­rectly in al­ter­nate job-cre­at­ing busi­nesses in the area rather than a trans­port model that has demon­stra­bly failed. Prest­wick only con­tin­ues as an on­go­ing en­tity be­cause it has a prom­ise of the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment pro­vid­ing more money as its losses build up. In a travel busi­ness where vol­umes are so crit­i­cal, Prest­wick’s pas­sen­ger num­bers con­tinue to de­cline.

The Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment spokesman is clearly clutch­ing at straws with talk of even­tu­ally get­ting a higher re­turn on its in­vest­ment than the in­ter­est charged on its loans. Prest­wick Air­port would need to gen­er­ate prof­its of more than £20m to re­pay the pub­lic money put in so far and there is no ev­i­dence of that be­ing a re­al­is­tic prospect. The Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment should look for a new pri­vate owner for the air­port, and if it finds no in­ter­est it should ac­cept the eco­nomic re­al­ity rather than al­low the pub­lic losses to pile yet higher. Keith How­ell, White Moss, West Lin­ton. YOUR ar­ti­cle in­di­cat­ing that the an­nual loss at Prest­wick Air­port is £7 mil­lion comes as no sur­prise; nor the fact that the loss is al­most £1m more than last year.

Each year we are sup­posed to be as­sured that “Pub­lic own­er­ship need not nec­es­sar­ily be a long-term fea­ture of Prest­wick man­age­ment” or “the losses were less than pre­vi­ously fore­cast”.

In the mean­while the cost to the pub­lic purse climbs as high and as fast as an air­craft tak­ing off: more than £20m to date and still count­ing.

Ev­ery gov­ern­ment makes mis­takes. The mark of sound gov­ern­ment is when it re­alises the fact, stops clutch­ing at straws in the wind over its 7000ft run­way and uses the an­nual loss to pro­mote new busi­ness in that area. Re­gret­fully the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment is not pre­pared to ad­mit its short­com­ings. R John­ston, 3 Bar­capel Av­enue, Newton Mearns.

TER­MI­NAL DE­CLINE? Prest­wick Air­port’s op­er­at­ing deficit last year was al­most £1m higher than in 2015, bring­ing to­tal losses since it went into pub­lic hands to £19m. The Gov­ern­ment has said there will be “no quick fix”.

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