Reflections on the Proposed Third Runway at Heathrow

The recent announcement of Scottish Government’s support for a third runway at Heathrow drew warm support from Scotland’s other political parties, but not the Scottish Greens.

The Scottish Government appeared to be seduced by promises of an astonishing “16,000 new jobs,” forgetting to say that estimate was by 2050; one hundred jobs for Prestwick and, casting aside any suggestion of an open, transparent and fair procurement policy, an assurance of Scotland winning £200m construction-related spend during planning and construction of the third runway.

Cabinet Secretary, for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work, Keith Brown MSP was enthused about the ‘£10 off’ deal for passengers landing at Heathrow from Scotland giving confusing and conflicting messages about the number of ‘short haul’ flights and their implications.

There was little public talk of the “£10million route development fund to help support new (my emphasis) domestic routes.” So more flights, possibly from more destinations in Scotland.

Mr Brown volunteered that increasing the number of long-haul flights to Scotland could reduce the number of “damaging” short-haul connections to Heathrow. However, Mr Brown blew that line by adding that many people flying directly to Scotland would want onward journeys to Heathrow.

Friends of the Earth say a third runway at Heathrow would increase passenger traffic by 70% by 2030; adding that if the UK and Scottish governments are genuinely committed to achieving internationally agreed climate change targets then aviation cannot be allowed to grow much more.

Here’s what we know:

  • Aviation is the fastest source of greenhouse gases with airlines gross polluters
  • Expanding aviation is a disaster for the climate and communities
  • Whilst air links from Inverness to London make sense those from central Scotland don’t
  • Improved rail services, in public ownership, would provide wider benefit

Of course with the building of the third runway at Heathrow is estimated at billions of pounds, the Scottish Government is thinking of the lucrative Barnett consequentials – assuming they exist when construction takes place – rather than its hitherto proclaimed priority of addressing climate change.

This whole episode is a last century idea indicative of an unhelpful cosiness between the Scottish Government and big business.