19 June 2003

S2M-31 Airport Investment (Glasgow and Edinburgh)

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Trish Godman): The final item of business is a members' business debate on motion S2M-31, in the name of Sandra White, on investment in Glasgow and Edinburgh airports.
Motion debated,
That the Parliament notes the response by BAA plc to Her Majesty's Government's consultation document, The Future Development of Air Transport in the United Kingdom: A National Consultation - Scotland, which states that the upgrading of Glasgow Airport to international hub status would cost £1.1 billion, £200 million less than government estimates, and that the cost of upgrading Edinburgh Airport would be £1.3 billion, £400 million more than previous estimates; further notes the massive investment planned for airport expansion in the south east of England; expresses its support for Scottish Airports Ltd's call on Her Majesty's Government not to put Scotland's long-term economical prospects at risk by opting to develop only one of the country's main airports, and believes that the Scottish Executive should make representations to Her Majesty's Government to ensure that the necessary investment is made available to ensure that both airports grow to their full potential.
... ... ...
Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I draw attention to my entry in the register of members' interests, which shows that I am a member of the Edinburgh Flying Club and therefore dependent on the facilities there.
The BAA submission to the consultation mentions new runways at Edinburgh and Glasgow as well as an extension of the length of the runway at Aberdeen. We should start by saying that, whatever the long-term future of Scotland's airports, it is important that the Executive plays its role in protecting the space that those airports will require for such expansion should those proposals crystallise into reality at some point in the future. At the same time, we must ensure that the owners of property adjacent to airports, who might be affected by such expansion at some time, are adequately compensated.
Incidentally, airports are a great source of biodiversity, because they provide an oasis of relatively undisturbed habitat for a range of wildlife. Do members know, for example, that there is a pair of otters at Edinburgh airport? I believe that that is the only place in Edinburgh where otters can be found.
Bill Aitken: Twin or otherwise?
Stewart Stevenson: I do not know.
There is already a lot of air traffic in central Scotland, with Edinburgh and Glasgow airports between them handling some 200,000 movements a year, to such an extent that we actually have a one-way system for air traffic. The two airports are already operated as a single entity for air traffic approach purposes. Some of the constraints that will have to be addressed are outwith the power of the Parliament and indeed outwith what the BAA has said. Military flying constrains the routes into Scotland. There is no viable east coast route to the south or the continent that is equivalent to the west coast airway, alpha 1. There is limited capacity there, and that is something that must be considered.
Military flying generally across Scotland is an issue. Prestwick does not have protected airspace and therefore has to be included in the centre of Scotland. Edinburgh is a significant cargo airfield and is therefore important for business purposes, so it is important that we have the space and capacity to develop that further. In the short term, I hope that the Executive will support proposals to extend the taxiways at Edinburgh. At present, they do not go to the ends of the runway, which imposes a severe limitation on the capacity of that airport. Extending the taxiways would double the capacity of Edinburgh airport for very little cost and small on-the-ground environmental impact.
We also have to interlink the big operations with the small operations. It is a source of continuing regret that we still do not see public transport single-engine planes providing services in Scotland, although they actually have a better safety record than twin-engine planes of an equivalent size. There is a whole range of issues surrounding this complex issue and I am sure that the minister will take account of them. I am happy to support the motion.

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