GLASGOW Airport chief Andy Cliffe has described the Scottish Government’s ownership of Prestwick Airport as “an interesting use of £50 million”.

Prestwick Airport was bought by the Scottish Government in 2013, for £1, after it had been put up for sale by Infratil of New Zealand.

Mr Cliffe, chief executive of Glasgow Airport owner AGS, told The Herald in an exclusive interview this week: “It is an interesting use of £50 million. I think it (Prestwick Airport) has some challenges…It is tough.”

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Asked if he would like to see Prestwick Airport returned to private ownership, Mr Cliffe said: “That is not for me to comment on. There is clearly a big sum of public money bound up in that airport.”

He added: “I think we could serve that market just as well from Glasgow Airport. Absolutely. It is a significant amount of public money invested into an airport which does a number of different things. There are clearly maintenance services and facilities that are there as well.”

Prestwick Airport notes on its website that it employs more than 300 people. It says it supports a further 1,700 jobs through its supplier network, and that it currently contributes £61.6 million annually to the Scottish economy. It adds that more than 4,500 jobs in total are supported by the airport and the surrounding Prestwick aerospace cluster.

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The accounts of TS Prestwick Holdco Ltd show that the airport made pre-tax profits of £1.21 million in the year to March 31, 2022. Turnover was £35m, nearly double the level of £18.9m in the prior financial year. However, only £1.254m of the revenues in the year to March 2022 were from passenger operations.

TS Prestwick Holdco’s accounts for the year to March 2022 note the amounts due to Transport Scotland “in respect of historical loan funding”.

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They add: “The loan balance as of 31st of March 2022 was £43.4m and together with accrued interest of £7.4m the balance included within net liabilities is £50.7m.”

In the 12 months to March 31, 2021, TS Prestwick Holdco made a pre-tax profit of £12.79m. However, this included a £5.36m exceptional gain arising from a reversal of previous impairment charges that took into account the airport’s improving performance, the outlook for its future, and clarification of the Covid-19 impact. It also included an £8.265m gain on revaluation of investment properties.

The gain on revaluation of investment properties in the year to March 2022 was £425,000.

For the year to March 2020, TS Prestwick Holdco recorded a pre-tax profit of £5.45m, having made a loss of £3.85m in the prior 12 months.