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Agenda: View of Scots on new runway are crucial to get the bold decisions we need

In November, I visited Scotland to meet a group of business leaders to listen to their views on airport expansion and to discuss London Gatwick's case for a new runway.

I will do so again early next year. The views of Scots travellers are crucial to a debate focused too much on the needs of passengers south of the border. For many years, London Gatwick was denied the opportunity to engage on such matters, because it was one of the many junior members of the old BAA monopoly.

Indeed, if our airports were still under BAA's ownership there would have been only one shortlisted option for the Airports Commission to choose from - Heathrow. In 2009, that changed when BAA sold Gatwick to Global Infrastructure Partners and launched an exciting new era of competition in the UK airports sector, including in Scotland.

Now the UK Government has charged Sir Howard Davies with trying to put UK airports policy right. It is critical we sustain excellent air connections with Europe and emerging economies around the world.

However, one of the principal lessons learned from the last round of airport policy making is that the choice of location for new runway capacity is hugely important, particularly for Scotland, and the other nations of the UK, which are anxious to preserve access to London's vast networks.

History tells us that making the wrong decision again in 2015, which is when the Airports Commission will make a decision, would see the world class connections we enjoy today diminish as both Gatwick and Heathrow will be full by the early 2020s.

That is why we are arguing for a second runway at Gatwick, which would allow us to compete even more with Heathrow for airlines, routes and passengers. The strength of London's connections (the best in the world) is based on competing airports surrounding the city and serving the rest of the UK.

Heathrow says the only answer is a mega hub. However, along with the Airports Commission, we are far from convinced and believe their arguments are exaggerated. If that were the case then the likes of New York, Moscow, Paris, Beijing, Tokyo, Istanbul and many other major global cities would all have one mega hub serving them. They don't.

As Gordon Dewar, of Edinburgh Airport, said earlier this week, choosing Heathrow this time round will essentially hand a licence to politicians to delay difficult decisions further, or - worse - to do nothing at all. That would significantly undermine Scotland's connectivity.

For consumers, ours is the only option that increases competition. At Heathrow, with some of highest airport charges in the world already, they would recreate the monopoly and strangle the largest and fastest growing part of the airline market - the low cost airlines. That would clearly work against the passenger, and would mean high fares forever.

So why is Gatwick a credible alternative for Scots wishing to travel to or connect through London? We serve destinations worldwide, including more UK cities than Heathrow and 45 of the top 50 European business routes. We serve 40 long-haul cities including Beijing, Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. Next year, Jakarta, New York, Los Angeles and Fort Lauderdale join the list.

Developing Gatwick is affordable. We are confident we can build a second runway for £5 billion and build it by 2025. Heathrow could cost as much as £17 billion and would take five years longer.

It is undoubtedly time for bold decision-making, and there is a real need for a cross-party political consensus on whether Gatwick or Heathrow should build the next runway.

In the meantime, Scotland's airports are forging new connections directly to cities such as Qatar, Dubai, Istanbul, New York and Chicago. We wish them every success.

But London remains important and in the months ahead, I hope to persuade Scotland Gatwick Airport provides the best long-term choice for Scots travellers.

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