KATE Forbes has admitted bids for government-owned Prestwick Airport were rejected as they were “considered not to be adequate right now to secure value for the taxpayer”.

Scottish ministers paid just £1 for the airport in 2013 and has since loaned it more than £42 million to stay afloat, with £33 million written off.

But the airport will now remain state owned as it was taken off the market after the Scottish Government ended talks with a potential private buyer last month.

Speaking in Holyrood, the Finance Secretary said that the recent attempt to sell the airport “attracted bids from credible investors”.

Ms Forbes added: “However, following careful consideration of a recommendation by the Prestwick board, we decided not to proceed with the sale, at this time.

“It is still our intention to return Prestwick airport to the private sector at the appropriate time and opportunity. Any decision must be informed by what is right for the long-term success of the business and the contribution that it makes to the local economy.”

Labour’s Colin Smyth asked for more details on the failed bidding process, but the SNP cabinet secretary warned that much of the speculation about the attempted sale had been “inaccurate” – adding that “we must continue to respect commercial confidentiality”.

She added: “The commercial bids that were received were assessed against the commercial case and the wider economic case for the region.

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“It was on the basis of independent advice, and following a recommendation from the Prestwick board, that we decided that the bid does not, at this stage, represent the value to the taxpayer that we are looking for.”

But Mr Smyth said Ms Forbes’ “vague answer is not good enough”.

He added: “There is no preferred bidder for Prestwick at the moment. “The cabinet secretary cannot hide behind on-going confidentiality when the process is not on-going: the sale has collapsed.

“Significant investment is required in order to give Prestwick a sustainable future. That will not come from a new owner any time soon.

“Can the cabinet secretary tell us exactly where the necessary investment for Prestwick will come from? Is it the case that, as it seems, and a decade after buying Prestwick, the Scottish Government still has no plan for the future of the airport.”

But Ms Forbes insisted that “we should not and cannot comment on speculation about the identity of bidders”

She added: “I can be clear, as I have already said, that the commercial bids that were received were, on the basis of independent advice, considered not to be adequate right now to secure value for the taxpayer.

"Any return to the private sector needs to be on the right terms. We need to ensure that we are confident that a sale would not only represent value for the taxpayer but would put the business on a firm footing.

“Long-term commercial sustainability is important – the business needs to develop and to support jobs and the economy. In the most recent sale process, we were not satisfied—on the basis of independent advice—that those objectives would be met.”