THE boss of Inverness Airport is backing calls for the UK Government to stop dithering over a decision on the third runway at Heathrow.
A judgement on whether to give the expansion plans at the UK’s biggest and busiest airport, the green light was expected by the end of 2015 but that has now been delayed by the government, which remains undecided due to environmental concerns.
But Inglis Lyon, managing director of Inverness Airport operator HIAL, said delaying a decision was bad for Scotland.
He added: “The reality is that Scottish airports need access to the UK’s hub airport. Heathrow remains by far the most popular route from Scotland’s main airports – that’s because it offers an unrivalled network of international connections.
“Its expansion has implications not just for the south- east of England, but for the country as a whole.
“It’s now more than six years since the last Labour government advanced the idea of expanding Heathrow, and three years since the current government tasked the independent Airports Commission with delivering a plan that would allow the UK to maintain its position as Europe’s most important aviation hub.
“The commission considered the issue in painstaking detail over more than two- and- a- half years. Its final report, one we endorse, was clear – a new runway should be built at Heathrow.
“The Airports Commission is our last best hope to address these challenges once and for all.”
Mr Lyon said while the UK dithers and delays, the rest of the world is busy building new airport capacity.
He added: “The Gulf States, in particular, are hugely ambitious, building world-class airports at a dizzying pace. We must move fast if we are to compete with our international rivals.
The commission believes that a new runway is needed by 2030. That sounds achievable, provided we make a start now. It’s time to stop kicking this issue into the long grass. It’s time to act once and for all. Britain’s ability to compete on the global stage is at stake.”
Fraser Grieve, of the Scottish Council for Development and Industry Infrastructure, said: “I think there has been far too much delay over the decision of a third runway for a good many generations.
“Really it’s about time that a decision was made for an additional runway to be built.
“The UK urgently needs the additional capacity and Inverness must have access to it.
“Heathrow is the UK’s flagship airport but we have not had any additional runways for the past 50 years. It has been at full capacity for a long time now and it really is restricting business growth.
“A total of 60,000 to -70,000 passengers each year are despatched (displaced) from the Inverness catchment area and they have had to go to Aberdeen or Edinburgh to travel to Heathrow.
“A third runway is really necessary.”
A final decision is expected by the government this summer.