THERE could be fewer direct flights in and out of Scotland if plans to expand Heathrow Airport get the go-ahead, the boss of a rival London airport has claimed.

Gatwick chief executive Stewart Wingate argued that building a new runway at Gatwick would lead to more competition between UK airports, which would in turn benefit Scotland.

But he has warned that if the plans to expand Heathrow are approved, some long-haul flights in and out of Scotland, including those to North America and the Middle East, could be under threat from the creation of a "monopolistic mega-hub" in the South East of England.

However, the CEO of Heathrow Airport John Holland-Kaye is preparing to tell MSPs today that an expansion of his terminal will create 16,000 new jobs, compared with 4,000 from an expansion of Gatwick.

He will argue that an expansion of Heathrow is the "only option that will grow Scottish exports, increase tourism and attract foreign investment to create local jobs", arguing that the rival airport mainly flies to leisure destinations already served by airports north of the border.

Both men are speaking to MSPs on the cross-party group on aviation today as the Airports Commission continues to consider the best way to increase runway capacity at UK airports.

The commission, which is examining plans to build a new runway at either Heathrow or Gatwick, is expected to make its recommendation to the UK Government in the coming weeks.

Mr Wingate insists that the decision about where the new runway is located is an "important debate for Scotland" and will later address MSPs on Holyrood's cross-party group on aviation.

He said: "The choice boils down to competition versus monopoly. Do we want to protect and strengthen Scotland's growing network of routes by creating a competitive system across the UK, or put that at risk by creating a monopolistic mega-hub at London Heathrow?

"The Airports Commission itself found that in every future scenario, Scotland will have a larger share of the UK airports market if Gatwick expands.

"That amounts to 14 per cent more daily scheduled international services from airports outside London and 50 million more passengers through Scotland's airports."

Mr Holland-Kaye, meanwhile, will tell MSPs the next few weeks are "crucial" for those campaigning for an expansion of Heathrow.

He will say: "To win the global race for jobs, trade and convenient flights. growth, Scotland must have easy access to long-haul growth markets with frequent and Scottish airports have secured direct connections to key markets in Europe, the Middle East and North America over recent years.

"I have no doubt that within the next decade we will see Glasgow or Edinburgh secure a direct flight to Beijing.

"But there will always be cities that local demand alone cannot sustain but the Scottish economy needs to be connected to. To access that wealth, investment and export potential, Scotland - and the rest of the UK - needs to connected as conveniently as possible."