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13 June 2019, 16:13
Prestwick Airport has been put up for sale, the Scottish Government has announced.
The airport is being sold off six years after it was taken under public ownership by the government, which bought it for just £1 to save it from closure.
Since becoming publicly owned during Nicola Sturgeon's time as economy secretary, the airport has built up almost £50 million of debt, although current Transport Secretary Michael Matheson claimed at the start of the year that costs were falling and revenues were rising.
The Scottish Government announced that the airport will be advertised for sale in the Official Journal of the European Union, inviting expressions of interest in the business.
Mr Matheson said: "Since the Scottish Government bought Glasgow Prestwick Airport in 2013, we have been clear that it is our intention to return the business to the private sector when the time is right.
"The senior management team at the airport has continued to engage with potential buyers and investors to discuss proposals for developing the business under new ownership.
"Good progress continues to be made by the airport to increase revenue, deliver operating efficiencies and pursue exciting opportunities for the future, including Spaceport.
"In light of that progress, the airport will shortly place an advert in the Official Journal of the European Union inviting expressions of interest.
"Any proposals submitted as a result of the advert would be considered carefully before any decision was taken to divest our shareholding in the airport or any part of the business."
The Scottish Conservatives welcomed the decision to sell the airport.
Ayr MSP John Scott said: "It is good news that Prestwick Airport is now being actively marketed for sale and I hope that a buyer can be secured at the earliest opportunity.
"Despite the problems the airport has faced over recent years, and the need for it to be taken over by the government in 2013, I have always firmly believed that it has the potential for a bright future.
"Prestwick has all the foundations for success - the longest commercial runway and parallel taxiway in Scotland, a reputation of being Britain's only fog-free airport, its own dedicated railway station, and a thriving aerospace campus.
"What it now needs is an owner prepared to put in the investment to take the airport forward as the major economic asset it undoubtedly is."
In June last year, the airport's chief executive told MSPs that passenger services from Prestwick Airport do not make any money.
Giving evidence to Holyrood's Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, Stewart Adams said: "It's clear that the passenger side of the business does not make money.
"Passenger numbers certainly need to increase but it is very difficult at the moment."
Scottish Labour's transport spokesman Colin Smyth said: "The government were far too slow in making the changes needed to turn Prestwick around when they bought it, and as a result it's doubtful they will get back the £50 million they have put in.
"However, the government cannot simply wash its hands of Prestwick.
"They have a responsibility to ensure that if a buyer is actually found, any sale must secure the jobs at Prestwick.
"Anything else would be an economic tsunami for Ayrshire and beyond."