Labour and Greens comment on Airport expansion in parliament

Labour MSP Neil Findlay – Please watch and share my speech from my debate today on Edinburgh Airport’s flawed flight path consultation.

My full speech is also below in text. (Check against delivery)

Thank you presiding officer – air travel is a modern necessity whether that be for work or leisure many of us use it at some point.

For people living near an airport they know and accept that they have to endure some disruption; however, it is incumbent upon Government and airport authorities to keep the impact of air travel and noise to a minimum and reduce disruption on people’s lives.

Airport’s may need to expand at some point but that should only be when:-
• those airports reach capacity
• when there is an unanswerable evidence base for doing so
• And when actions are taken to ensure widespread community support and real and genuine mitigation measures are put in place and carry the confidence of the public.

Under the current proposals put forward by Edinburgh airport none of this has happened. There is no evidence base for expansion, the airport is not at capacity, there is huge community opposition and the mitigation measures promoted do not carry the confidence of the communities who will be affected. 
From the outset the consultation process on the proposals from Edinburgh airport to introduce new flight paths has been shambolic and flawed in so many ways. Let me set out why.

Edinburgh airport is not at capacity – it is operating below 2007 levels. The airport claim they have scheduling issues at peak time around 7 am. The rest of the time there are no capacity issues. Isn’t it therefore ironic that to address the 7am scheduling issue the airport have brought in charges on airlines to manage peak demand for slots. Edinburgh airport are one of the most vocal advocates of scrapping air passenger duty to increase demand yet impose their own flight duty to manage peak demand. And of course they haven’t been shy to add drop off charges for their passengers. Their brass neck is something to behold.

The initial phase 1 consultation process saw over 200 consultation responses lost, many people not notified of the plan and residents in places like East Calder, Winchburgh, Kirkliston, South Queensferry and Kirknewton advised by the online tool to check their postcode or their future postcode to see if they would be affected by new flight paths. Thousands of people were advised there would be no impact on them so never made submissions. Then lo and behold the phase 2 route options were published and these very same people find they are now very much affected by the plans having just spent hard earned money and life savings on a new home.

This occurred because the whole consultation is based on the population from the 2011 census – a whole six years out of date. This completely fails to take into account the huge number of new houses built in Calderwood, Winchburgh, Kirkliston and other areas. And isn’t astonishing that the developer of the huge development at Winchburgh where 4000 new houses, a secondary school and much more will be built has not even been consulted by the airport about their proposals. I have spoken to a number of residents who bought houses in new developments on basis they believe they wouldn’t be affected – only to find out they now are.

The airport claim 25,000 fewer people will be overflown – yet the methodology behind this claim is nowhere to be seen.

Yet again there is no evidence base in this flawed process.

The consultation process has also been heavily loaded in favour of the airport. Community councils whose members are lay people with limited expertise in the highly technical world of aviation have been asked to comment on very complex documents with no support or technical advice available to them. This is completely unfair and loaded in favour of a big powerful and influential business who have consultants, technicians and spin doctors coming out of their ears. That is neither fair nor just but I do however want to pay tribute to all those community councillors and members of the public who have committed he time and effort to this cause.

And Presiding officer most disconcerting in all of this is how this new consultation sets community against community. In developing several route options they are effectively saying to people – OK you might not want flights over your property so which community would you like to send them over –a divide and rule strategy if ever there was one.

Other concerns include the way data has been presented, the loss of submissions at phase 1 and the failure to fully analyse health and environmental impacts.

But let me be clear Edinburgh airport is not developing these plans in isolation. A freedom of information request I have just received lays bare how they are absolutely complying with the SNP Government’s policy. At a meeting between Nicola Sturgeon and the Chief Executive of easyjet in November the First Minister said and I quote “The Scottish Government will continue to support all Scottish Airports to grow the number of routes to and from our airports.” The paper goes on “We are keen to explore further route development options with easyJet and to support their aspirations to expand in Scotland.” Crystal clear. Isn’t it therefore crass hypocrisy for Fiona Hyslop and Angela Constance to sit in cabinet supporting this policy and the scrapping of air passenger duty but all the while claiming to their constituents in Broxburn, Linlithgow, Uphall, Dechmont and East Calder that they oppose these proposals. They have been well and truly rumbled trying to ride 2 horses at the one time.

Presiding officer I am more convinced than ever that this plan for more routes and flight paths is about one thing and that is fattening Edinburgh airport for a future sale at an inflated profit. That is what GIP the owners of the airport do.





Scottish Green MSPs today used a Holyrood debate on Edinburgh airport’s expansion plans to call on the Scottish Government to step in and halt the company’s flawed consultation.

Last week 20 community councils affected by the plans came together at a summit meeting at Holyrood hosted by Mark Ruskell, Scottish Green MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife.

In today’s debate, Mr Ruskell said:

“These proposals will impact heavily on West Fife. Dalgety Bay alone will go from being overflown on 70 days per year, to potentially facing flights 365 days per year, 18 hours per day, with no respite.

“This unfair consultation pitches communities against each other. Instead we need to agree that this consultation is not fit for purpose and should be halted immediately.

“Last week, I held a meeting in parliament for affected Community Councils. Representatives from 20 councils, across 6 local authority areas attended, and each had their own story to tell about how they felt misled, or ill-informed. There is no information on the social, economic or environmental impact of the proposed routes, because these assessments have simply not been done.

“The Scottish Government must step in and force the CAA to put a halt to this consultation.”

Also speaking in the debate, Andy Wightman, Scottish Green MSP for Lothian, said:

“This consultation has been seriously flawed, the airport operators have misled the public and have displayed an arrogance and contempt for public opinion. Edinburgh Airport, NATS and the CAA have virtually all the power. They got it from Conservative Governments who privatised the airports, who privatised NATS and who created the modern CAA whose statutes privilege commerce and the needs of the private airline industry.

“Are these proposals in the public interest or are they designed to boost the asset value of a company to be sold off at profit in the years ahead by a bunch of faceless offshore speculators? Edinburgh Airport exercises power in the interest of its faceless shareholders in far-away tax havens.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s