AVIATION bosses in the Highlands have been labelled “reckless” after 25-year plans for a £55 million expansion at Inverness Airport were drawn up.

The Scottish Greens have criticised the proposals to replace the passenger terminal at Inverness Airport with a new building on a different site under consideration.

The Press and Journal reported that the £54.8 million plan could see the terminal moved across the runway in a bid to place the facility within walking distance of a proposed railway station.

But the Greens have warned that investing to double passenger numbers does not fit with the Scottish Government's commitment to cut 75 per cent of 1990 levels of carbon emissions by 2030 and become a net zero carbon economy by 2045, including aviation.

The Scottish Government's climate change plan update, published in December states that ministers will “explore the potential for the purchase of zero/low emission aircraft” and be leased back to operators.

It adds: “Moreover, as part of that strategy, we also make a new commitment to explore options for incentivising the use of more sustainable aviation fuel, recognising that significant levers in this area are reserved.”

Scottish Greens lead candidate for the Highlands and Islands, Ariane Burgess, said: “We have only nine years left before climate science tells us global warming becomes irreversible. To produce a 25-year plan to more than double air travel through Inverness is reckless.

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“We are still paying for the current facilities at Inverness Airport, a legacy of the Labour and Liberal Democrat’s extortionate PFI project. They are more than adequate for life-line services across the Highlands and Islands.”

She added: “As we build a recovery from Covid, instead of driving growth in air traffic it’s vital we prioritise accessible connectivity through improving our bus and train network.

“This plan from a government agency reveals the gap between the climate rhetoric from ministers and action on the ground, while the Conservatives seem willing to ignore the climate crisis altogether. Only the Scottish Greens have the urgent solutions, like our proposed £22 billion upgrade of Scotland’s railways which would serve our communities and create thousands of jobs.”

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A draft master plan estimates that the number of passengers could more than double from the pre-pandemic number of 947,000 by up to 2.1 million by 2045.

Inverness Airport general manager, Graeme Bell, said: “We have conducted a traffic forecast exercise that indicates the airport will continue to thrive post-Covid, predominantly through further expansion of the UK market and a modest growth of international passengers.

“The draft plans show four options of facilitating our anticipated development, made up of three extensions to the existing terminal building and one option for a completely new terminal building constructed on the south side of the airfield.

“The concepts presented within the plan have been designed to provide intuitive passenger flows that will enable fast-track movement of business and frequent travellers, and walk-through retail space to enhance the commercial experience.”