Human rights worries cast aside as SNP begs for Qatar cash to help save ailing Prestwick
SNP ministers have pleaded with a Middle East regime which has been accused of human rights abuses to help save troubled PrestwickAirport.
The Scottish Government urged Qatar Airways to set up cargo services at the loss-making, Scottish Government-owned Ayrshire airport.
And Scottish Government talks with high-ranking Qatar officials have included an ‘investment pitch’ for up to £40 billion of spending on renewable energy.
Despite this, Nicola Sturgeon, responding to a Holyrood question about the ill-treatment of migrant workers building stadiums for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, said that human rights ‘must be respected’.
Minutes from a meeting in March 2014 between Alex Salmond and Akbar Al Baker, chief executive of stateowned Qatar Airways, show that the former First Minister ‘outlined the opportunities Prestwick provides for cargo services’. At the Bute House meeting, Mr Al Baker promised to discuss this with his chief cargo officer.
The Scottish Government bought the airport for £1 in November 2013, but Prestwick then ran up £11.6 million of losses in the 17 months to the end of March. A separate briefing note prepared for the First Minister ahead of a meeting with the Qatar ambassador in 2011 said there were £40 billion of investment opportunities in Scotland’s renewables industry.
External Affairs Minister Humza Yousaf also held a series of meetings with senior officials in Qatar.
The close contact between the SNP and the oil-rich state is in sharp contrast to comments made by Miss Sturgeon. After reports that workers had died building football stadiums there, she told MSPs it was important that ‘human rights are upheld and respected in every part of the world without exception.’
Labour MSP Neil Findlay, who obtained details of the meetings through freedom of information laws, said: ‘Ministers have been traipsing around Qatar pitching for cash whilst at best paying lip service to their record on human rights. This really looks like desperate stuff and again exposes the SNP’s rhetoric over reality.’
A Transport Scotland spokesman said that Prestwick ‘is exploring various options to ensure it becomes a success’.
TROUBLED: Deserted check-in desks at Prestwick, which is owned by the SNP Government