Adding a third runway at Heathrow could boost Scotland’s economy by £14billion and generate 16,000 new jobs across the country.
The airport has announced a range of commitments – which it can deliver if an expansion is approved – aimed at improving Scotland’s links to the rest of the world and helping Scottish businesses connect to global growth.
These could result in more frequent and better timed flights between Heathrow and Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh, a new route from Inverness, and the creation of new links to airports, including Dundee.
As the UK’s only hub airport, Heathrow connects to 75 destinations not served by others in the country, and the package of commitments is designed to support routes from Scotland to this hub.
If the expansion is given the green light, this will be done by partnering with Scottish airports and national and regional governments to establish new and improved routes through Heathrow. It will also conduct a review of its charges for domestic routes from January 2016.
Independent research commissioned by the airport and based on economic analysis by the Airports Commission has found that adding a third runway to Heathrow would see Scotland receive up to £14billion in economic growth and 16,100 new jobs. Across the UK, this would amount to £211billion and 179,600 new jobs.
As Heathrow has been full for the last ten years, many airlines have been forced to use their available capacity for long-haul flights at the expense of Scottish routes. This has seen the average number of daily flights from Scotland to Heathrow decline from 50 in 2005 to 35 in 2015. This could decrease further to 26 by September, due to the removal of the Virgin Little Red services from Aberdeen and Edinburgh.
The airport says this is resulting in Scottish businesses being increasingly cut off from opportunities to grow globally, as the lack of flights from Scotland to Heathrow means they are more accessible to companies nearer to the airport in the south-east of England.
A number of organisations across the country have pledged their support for an expansion of Heathrow, including Glasgow, Aberdeen & Grampian, Inverness and Scottish Chambers of Commerce, Glasgow and Aberdeen Airports, and the Scottish Council for Development and Industry. It has also received backing from two of the UK’s largest trade unions, Unite and GMB.
Post-expansion, the airport says it will establish a £10million Heathrow Route Development Fund. This will offer start-up capital for airlines to support up to five new routes for three years, at airports which need access to global markets and aren’t currently supported by it.
It will also work with the government to re-designate the Public Service Obligation routes to Heathrow. These are flights subsidised by the government, where aviation is vital to the area’s economic and social development, but are not commercially viable.
The re-designation would include the current link between Dundee and Stansted, due to Heathrow’s larger number of connections to global growth markets.
Heathrow CEO, John Holland-Kaye, said: “Expanding Heathrow could deliver over £14bn in economic benefit and 16,000 new jobs across Scotland. We have been listening to businesses, politicians and now to the National Connectivity Task Force, and today’s announcement shows that we have a plan to deliver what Britain needs. Only Heathrow can connect Scotland to global growth.”
Carol Benzie, Managing Director of Aberdeen Airport, said: “We welcome the announcement by Heathrow regarding the new measures and the emphasis placed on the importance of domestic connections to London. In response to the airports commission debate, we have been consistently vocal that there must be a mechanism in place to strengthen and secure domestic connections to the UK’s hub, in order to benefit the whole of the UK.
“As the UK’s oil and gas hub, it is essential Aberdeen maintains its connectivity to London both prior to any expansion plan and once additional capacity is created, in order to connect to strategically important routes for its business and leisure market”.
Amanda McMillan, Managing Director of Glasgow Airport, said: “The ability of Scotland to maintain and increase its global competitiveness is dependent on having air links with established and emerging markets and Heathrow plays a hugely important role in facilitating this.
“Any moves that will help maintain and, where possible, enhance our connectivity with the UK’s only hub must be welcomed. We look forward to working in partnership with Heathrow to deliver further access for Glasgow Airport.”