GLASGOW Prestwick Airport has emerged as the frontrunner to become Britain's first spaceport.


According to reports, MSPs are set to recommend it becomes Scotland's "preferred bid" to become the European hub for commercial space flights,

If approved, Prestwick would be used as the take-off point for space tourism under proposals from Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic and XCOR Space Expeditions.

MSPs from all parties are expected to approve a motion later this week which says Prestwick should be promoted as as Scotland's preferred bidder.

John Scott, a Conservative MSP who will lead a members debate at Holyrood said: "I am very grateful for the cross-party support this has achieved.

"Prestwick is the location of choice not just for Scotland, but for the whole of the UK given the attributes it has.

"It is well connected by road and rail from central Scotland and England and has one of the longest runways in Scotland and a tremendous largely cloud-free weather profile."

The loss-making airport was bought by the Scottish Government in 2013 in a last-ditch effort to keep it open. Its 2013/14 accounts, due to be published shortly, are expected to show an annual loss of about £5m.

The proposal to attract a spaceport to Prestwick was laid out in a long-term vision for the future of the airport, which is used by budget airline Ryanair.

Scottish ministers have committed £10m of investment to Prestwick Airport, which is going towards operating costs, a repairs backlog and improvements to the terminal building.

The new facility would help turn Prestwick into one of the focal points of the UK space sector which employs some 34,000 people and is estaimated to be worth £11 billion to the economy.

Others on the Civil AviationAuthority's shortlist are Campbeltown and Stornoway, Newquay in Cornwall and Llanbedr in Wales.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "As we've consistently said our main focus is on ensuring the spaceport is based in Scotland.

"While Glasgow Prestwick Airport would appear to be in a strong position we stand ready to support and offer advice to any Scottish bid, not just Prestwick."