GATWICK Airport will establish a £20 million fund to boost regional connections to and from London in the ten years after opening a second runway, bosses have said, as the battle with Heathrow over expansion intensifies.

The cash would be used to incentivise airlines to introduce new services and help bankroll marketing campaigns for tourism bodies in UK regions, including Scotland.

Airport bosses would also work with Government to explore how to safeguard slots for new regional domestic flights and support funding applications for new subsidised routes, according to the details of a package unveiled on Friday.

The move comes weeks after rival Heathrow announced plans to cut airport charges for domestic flights and launch a £10m Route Development Fund if it was given the go-ahead to build a third runway.

Revealing the plans at Cornwall Chamber of Commerce, Gatwick Airport chief executive Stuart Wingate said: "Gatwick has always been serious about encouraging the growth and development of a strong network of competing airports around the UK. This fund - and the measures we propose to support it - will improve connectivity to London for those that need it.

"Gatwick expansion is best for the UK and regions because it supports not only the growth of connectivity to London, but also more connectivity between all UK airports and international short and long haul destinations.

"Expanding Gatwick will provide more competition and choice for passengers all around the UK."

Gatwick Airport is trailing its rival for support north of the Border, with the Scottish Chambers of Commerce and the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI) both backing an extra runway at Heathrow's over Gatwick.

A consultation on the airports' expansion plans ended in February and the Airports' Commission, chaired by Sir Howard Davies, is due to publish its final report this summer.

Meanwhile, the Department for Transport has reportedly drafted in city bankers, Rothschild, to provide financial advice to ministers and officials in the wake of Sir Howard's final recommendation.

According to the Airport's Commission, Gatwick's second runway would require an outlay of £9.3bn, while Heathrow's third runway plan is estimated to cost £18.6bn.