Date published: 28th May 2015

Gatwick CEO Stewart Wingate on why Gatwick expansion is best for Scotland


Stewart Wingate:

"The General Election changed Scotland’s political map dramatically, and those seismic events look likely to have an impact on the governance of the rest of the UK in due course.

"Westminster has seldom been more interested in what happens north of the border, and in other parts of these islands.

"Power is moving closer to the people, and so it will be important for the Airports Commission to reflect the needs and wishes of the UK’s nations and regions as it considers how best to meet the demand for new runway capacity.

"At Gatwick, where we would like to build a second runway, our case for Scotland boils down to a simple choice: competition, lower fares and more direct routes for Scotland’s airports, versus an expensive monopoly at Heathrow that takes us back to the days when Scots had to travel to London first if they wanted to fly around the world.

"Gatwick was freed from the dead hand of Heathrow’s owners in 2009; Edinburgh followed in 2012. Now, Aberdeen and Glasgow have been liberated too, and it’s passengers and businesses in Scotland that feel the benefit.

"People have more choice than ever. As a result, customer service is improving. New facilities are being introduced. Innovation and new ideas flourish.

"New aircraft such as Boeing’s Dreamliner fly further than ever, reducing the need to connect through old-fashioned hubs and allowing Scotland’s airports to build excellent networks of direct international air services to serve their local economies.

"Detailed analysis of the Airports Commission’s research shows that Scotland would have a larger share of the UK airports market if Gatwick expands, and airports outside the South East of England would have 14 per cent more daily scheduled international services.

"Think of the business and export opportunities created by more direct connections from Scotland and those millions of new passengers, and then take a moment to think about the alternative.

"The Airports Commission estimates that an expanded Heathrow will command a huge 86% share of the UK long-haul market by 2050. That’s a monopoly whose dominance will cast a long shadow over every airport from Inverness to Newquay.

"Far from creating business and tourism opportunities for Scotland, as Heathrow’s owners suggest, this huge airport would instead undermine the growing number of long-haul connections built up by Scottish airports in recent years, including those to North America and the Middle East.

"Astonishingly, Heathrow is asking Westminster to hand over nearly £6 billion to improve infrastructure around the airport. That is £6,000,000,000 of taxpayers’ money going directly into London, around half a billion pounds of which will be sent from Scotland.

"As somebody who was born and raised a Geordie, and whose first job in the airports business was at Glasgow Airport, that ‘Heathrow levy’ bothers me greatly.

"The nations and regions of these islands require investment as much as London does. The gap between the economy of the South East of England and the rest of the country is marked. It does not have to be like that; Gatwick’s competitive option requires no money at all from taxpayers, freeing up Government funds to be spent on the areas that need it outside London.

"Gatwick is the UK’s challenger airport. When a five-year competition investigation called for the break up of BAA in order to better serve passengers, we were at the vanguard of that change. Edinburgh joined us in 2012, and has gone from strength to strength. Aberdeen and Glasgow are now masters of their own destiny.

"In simple terms: Heathrow wants to protect its taxpayer-funded monopoly, whereas Gatwick is happy to fund its own expansion and compete with Scots airports in an open market.

"Which is fairer? Which is healthier? Which is best for Scotland?"