Carmichael urged to apologise after latest anti-independence report targets Scottish Airports

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  By Martin Kelly
 
Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael has been urged to apologise for talking down a leading Scottish business after the UK Government’s latest report on borders and citizenship wrongly claimed that any future expansion of Edinburgh airport was “limited”.
 
The calls follow the latest anti-independence publication from the UK Government which claimed increasing capacity would be expensive and could take years.

According to the report: “The number of countries served by direct flights from Scottish airports is currently limited because Scottish airports do not have the physical capacity to serve all parts of the globe.  Edinburgh airport, for example, is currently operating at over two thirds of its maximum capacity, and this is forecast to increase to nearly 80 per cent by 2020.  Its ability to add flights to additional destinations without affecting its current services is therefore limited.”

The report left airport chiefs furious with a spokesman for Edinburgh Airport, which was singled out in the attack, challenging the claims.

Speaking to the Scotland on Sunday newspaper, he said: “We found the description of Edinburgh Airport in the Scotland Office’s Borders paper both surprising and unhelpful…”

He added: “For the avoidance of any doubt, we will never turn airlines away and work extremely hard to give Scottish passengers the routes they desire.  We’ve been successful in 2013 in securing three new long-haul routes and will continue to make the case for Scotland and Edinburgh.  We have also publicly committed to an investment of £150 million in our facilities, with our £25m new security hall under construction.”

Commenting, SNP MSP Colin Keir, whose constituency Edinburgh Western includes the airport, said:

“It is appalling that, in their desperation to scaremonger about independence, the UK government is prepared to talk down one of Scotland’s leading businesses.  Alistair Carmichael should apologise and publicly correct his claims.

“The UK Government’s analysis series has lurched from one calamity to the next – and simply serves to highlight how Westminster is wrong on borders, wrong on the common travel area and wrong on the performance of Edinburgh’s excellent airport.

“Previously Edinburgh has been named a Best Airport in Europe and with expansion plans in the pipeline its future is going from strength to strength.

“This success is in spite of the crippling effect of Westminster’s Air Passenger Duty on the aviation industry.

“Yet again we are reminded why Scotland needs a Yes vote to allow us to have full control over our aviation industry.”

Meanwhile the SNP has reacted angrily after Mr Carmichael’s junior colleague at the Scotland Office, Conservative MP David Mundell, admitted that David Cameron is using the diplomatic resources of the UK in order to brief against Scottish independence.

Mr Mundell’s confirmation, which was broadcast by SKY News, followed reports in the Sunday Herald that a department of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, set up in 2012 in order to promote the interests of the Scottish Government, was in fact being used in order to issue anti-independence material to foreign governments.

According to the Sunday Herald: “The Devolution Unit, created by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in 2012 to deliver abroad the “utmost co-operation”, now appears to be at the heart of Westminster’s anti-independence drive, amassing hostile reactions from overseas.

It is understood the FCO has contacted the governments of China, Russia, the US, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the 28 EU nations about the Scottish referendum in a global search for allies who might oppose independence.”

The revelation was slammed as a “disgrace” by SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson who said:

“David Mundell has confirmed that David Cameron is using the diplomatic resources of the UK – which Scottish taxpayers pay our full share of – to brief against Scotland abroad, but he is too scared to debate Alex Salmond at home.

“In public David Cameron has pledged that the referendum is for people in Scotland.  “In private he’s using UK diplomats around the world to support the No campaign.

“Governments internationally have said they won’t get involved in this democratic debate in Scotland.

“It’s a disgrace that the Prime Minister is breaking his word, encouraging foreign interventions while running scared of a debate with the First Minister.”