Royal Navy search and rescue helicopter crews say goodbye to Scotland

Crews based at HMS Gannet have carried out thousands of rescues over the last 44 years.

Edinburgh Castle: HMS Gannet Sea Kings over Edinburgh. <strong>Chris Brand</strong>
Edinburgh Castle: HMS Gannet Sea Kings over Edinburgh. Chris Brand

The Royal Navy’s last search and rescue helicopter crews are flying across Scotland to mark the end of decades of service.

Crews based at HMS Gannet have carried out thousands of rescues over the last 44 years, including saving 12 people trapped on a bus caught up in flooding last month.

On January 1, military search and rescue came to an end north of the border when the Royal Navy handed responsibility to civilian firm Bristow.

HMS Gannet helicopters visited Prestwick, Glasgow, Garelochhead, Tyndrum, Lochaber, Oban, Inverlochlarig, Stirling, Edinburgh and Ayr on Thursday before ending the trip with a visit to Troon at 2.30pm.

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They were accompanied by Sea King MK4 Commando aircraft.

Earlier this week, HMS Gannet commanding officer lieutenant commander Charlie Fuller said: “Over the years HMS Gannet has enjoyed immense support from communities the length and breadth of Scotland.

“The flypast is our chance to say farewell and hopefully people will come out to wave goodbye too.”

HMS Gannet was the busiest search and rescue flight in the UK last year, with more than 300 rescues on its books.

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Prestwick crews broke the record for the most operations in a single year when they carried out 447 rescues in 2009.

The crew’s last job – and its 313th of the year – was assisting police during an operation in Invergarry.

More than 70 years of military search and rescue came to an end in the north of Scotland when the last of Moray’s “budgie yellow” Sea King helicopter fleet left Lossiemouth in April 2015.

The choppers, which were on hand during disasters including Piper Alpha and the Lockerbie bombing, have been replaced by modern Sikorsky S92s.

At the time, long-serving RAF Mountain Rescue Team member David Whalley described the Sea Kings were an “incredible” asset to Scotland’s civilian rescue services.


Seven more deaths of people with coronavirus in Scotland

It's the highest number of fatalities in the country since June 17, while there are 640 new cases.

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Seven more people with coronavirus have died in Scotland, the highest daily total since June 17.

It takes the death toll among patients who died within 28 days of their coronavirus test to 2519.

Separate weekly figures from National Records of Scotland show that up to Sunday, September 27, a total of 4257 deaths have been registered where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

That includes ten deaths last week – five in hospital, four in care homes and one in another setting.

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These weekly figures include those who died more than 28 days after testing positive for the virus, as well as those who were suspected to have it but were not tested.

Speaking at the daily Covid briefing, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “We, of course, should never think of these deaths as statistics, every single one of them represents the loss of a unique and irreplaceable individual.

“I want to send my deepest condolences to everyone who has lost a loved one, and that particularly includes those who have lost loved ones in the last few days.”

The country has confirmed 640 new Covid cases overnight, the FM added, which amounts to 10.3% of newly-tested Scots, down from 11.5% and 806 cases on Tuesday.

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Of those cases, 232 – more than a third – are in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board area, where a campus cluster at the University of Glasgow is ongoing.

There are 160 new infections in Lothian and 73 in Lanarkshire.

A total of 137 people around Scotland are in hospital being treated for coronavirus, which is a rise of 14 in 24 hours.

Of these patients, 14 were in intensive care, down two from the revised figure of 16 the previous day.

Sturgeon said there were 94 new hospital admissions for the virus last week – up 60% from the figure of 58 the previous week.

This means “we could not afford complacency”, she told the briefing.

Nominate unsung heroes for Pride of Scotland Awards

The event - which will mirror the successful Pride of Britain Awards - will be shown on STV later this year.

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Celebration: Nominations are now open for the Pride of Scotland Awards.

A new awards ceremony will celebrate ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

The Pride of Scotland Awards will honour unsung heroes who’ve transformed the lives of people around them – and will include the STV Children’s Appeal Child / Teenager of Courage Award.

The event – which will mirror the successful Pride of Britain Awards – will be shown on STV later this year.

The 90-minute programme will see famous faces from the worlds of showbiz, sport and politics celebrate the bravest, most remarkable people from every corner of Scotland. 

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Nominated by the public, the inspirational award-winners will come from all age groups, and all walks of life. Nominations are now open, but will close at 5pm on Friday.

Pride of Scotland: The awards will be shown on STV later this year.

Award categories

  • STV Children’s Appeal Child / Teenager of Courage Award
  • TSB Community Hero
  • Young Fundraiser of the Year
  • Outstanding Bravery
  • Special Recognition
  • Emergency Services Award
  • Lifetime Achievement

For more information and to nominate, click here.


Tory MSP thrown out the chamber for calling Sturgeon a liar

Oliver Mundell accused the FM of lying to parliament when she pledged full transparency to Holyrood's Salmond inquiry.

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A Conservative MSP has been ejected from the Holyrood chamber after accusing the First Minister of lying to parliament and then refusing to apologise for the remark.

Dumfriesshire MSP Oliver Mundell claimed Nicola Sturgeon had lied when she previously pledged full co-operation and transparency with Holyrood’s inquiry into how harassment complaints against Alex Salmond were dealt with.

On Tuesday, the Scottish Tories suggested the FM had “misled” parliament amid frustration among MSPs on the inquiry with the lack of evidence it has received, with its convener going as far as to accuse the Scottish Government of “obstruction”.

Mundell, who is the son of former Scottish secretary David Mundell, raised this as a point of order in the Scottish Parliament chamber on Wednesday.

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Challenged about his use of language by presiding officer Ken Macintosh, he refused to withdraw his accusation that the First Minister had “lied to parliament”.

The presiding officer then demanded he leave.

Outright accusing another elected member of telling a lie in the chamber is deemed unparliamentary language.

After Salmond successfully took the Scottish Government to court in 2019 over its botched handling of harassment complaints against him, a special committee of MSPs was set up to investigate what had happened.

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Regarding the committee’s work, on January 17 the First Minister told MSPs: “The inquiries will be able to request whatever material they want, and I undertake today that we will provide whatever material they request.”

She also repeatedly pledged the Scottish Government would “cooperate fully” with the probe and offer maximum possible transparency.

But SNP MSP and inquiry convener Linda Fabiani said on Tuesday the committee is experiencing “frankly, obstruction” from the Scottish Government.

It has previously complained of missed deadlines for evidence and key files heavily redacted or withheld by the government, with officials citing legal reasons for doing so.

Fabiani said the committee still awaits written submissions from the Scottish Government, from SNP chief executive Peter Murrell – Sturgeon’s husband – and from Salmond himself – and “simply cannot proceed” without the evidence it needs.

Citing the First Minister’s remarks to the chamber in January, Mundell repeated the Conservative accusation that she had misled MSPs.

He said: “Will the presiding officer ask the First Minister to explain why she lied to parliament?”

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Macintosh said the issue is being looked at by the committee and suggested Mundell raise the matter with it directly or ask the question during a parliamentary debate.

The presiding officer then asked the Tory MSP to “apologise for using the term ‘lied’ in the chamber”.

But Mundell declined, and said: “I do feel it is the appropriate word, and I can’t find anything else that would express the sentiment.”

Macintosh urged him to make his point “without personalising and making pejorative terms which are disrespectful to other members” and said his remarks were not “befitting of Mr Mundell’s character”.

The Dumfriesshire MSP hit back: “I think it’s disrespectful to the parliament for the First Minister to make a promise and not to keep it.

“But I can’t withdraw the word, no.”

The presiding officer answered: “I’m going to have to ask you to leave the chamber, I don’t think that language is acceptable.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said any suggestion Sturgeon had misled Holyrood is “demonstrably false”.

She added: “The First Minister has agreed to personally give evidence to the committee – and as we have made clear, not only is the government providing all possible material to the committee, we intend to initiate legal proceedings seeking to allow the release of further documents.”

First Bus to report pupils to police for not wearing masks

The firm said youngsters are putting drivers’ lives at risk and will be reporting them to Police Scotland from now on.

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Warning: First Bus threaten to call police if pupils fail to wear a mask.

A bus company has threatened to report pupils to police over complaints they are refusing to wear face masks on board its vehicles.

First Bus claims in a letter to schools in Glasgow that a “significant number” of students have been flouting the rules designed to stem the spread of coronavirus.

The firm said they are putting drivers’ lives at risk and will be reporting them to Police Scotland if “further breaches of the wearing of face coverings are identified”.

Duncan Cameron, operations director, added: “In the main, we are seeing a high compliance of passengers wearing face coverings and we remain confident that the public will do the right thing and wear a face covering on board public transport to protect themselves and others.

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“However, First Glasgow were made aware of an issue in regards to some school pupils failing to comply with Scottish Government guidance around the mandatory use of face coverings on public transport whilst using our regular services to get to and from school over the last few weeks.

“The feedback from both drivers and local stakeholders was then investigated by our staff who carried out spot checks and confirmed an issue on a small number of services in the city.

“We have therefore taken the immediate action to contact all schools across our Greater Glasgow area network to plea for them to work in partnership with us to help stamp out this issue before it becomes any worse.”

He added most schools which had been contacted had tried to be helpful.


Full list of Scottish TSB branches earmarked for closure

The bank announced on Wednesday the cuts would affect around 300 jobs in Scotland.

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TSB: The bank intends to close 73 branches in Scotland.

TSB has revealed the 73 branches it has earmarked for closure in Scotland next year.

The Edinburgh-based bank said the cuts will affect 300 jobs.

The company intends to close 164 branches across the UK, reducing its headcount by around 900, following a “significant change in customer behaviour” as fewer people use branches in favour of online banking.

Branches have been selected to ensure 94% of customers in Scotland are still within 20 minutes’ travel time of one that will remain open.

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Six of those set to close are in Aberdeen – Culter, Dyce, Kincorth, Mannofield, St Machar and Torry.

Another six will close in Glasgow – Anniesland, Dennistoun, Drumchapel, Easterhouse, Partick and Springburn.

In Edinburgh three branches will close – Costorphine, Gorgie and Pilton.

Meanwhile, two in Dundee will close – Craigiebank and Lochee.

The remaining branches to close:

  • Aboyne
  • Alexandra
  • Alford
  • Anstruther
  • Banchory
  • Bathgate
  • Bearsden
  • Berwick-upon-tweed
  • Blairgowrie
  • Bo’ness
  • Broxburn
  • Buckhaven
  • Bucksburn
  • Burntisland
  • Campbelltown
  • Carnoustie
  • Castle Douglas
  • Coatbridge
  • Coupar Angus
  • Cowdenbeath
  • Crieff
  • Cumnock
  • Cupar
  • Dalkeith
  • Dingwall
  • Dunoon
  • Girvan
  • Grangemouth
  • Grantown-on-Spey
  • Hawick
  • Helensburgh
  • Huntly
  • Insch
  • Johnstone
  • Kelso
  • Kilbirnie
  • Kilsyth
  • Kirkaldy, Templehall
  • Largs
  • Larkhall
  • Lochgilphead
  • Montrose
  • Nairn
  • North Berwick
  • Peebles
  • Penicuik
  • Pitlochry
  • Port Glasgow
  • Prestwick
  • Renfrew
  • Rosyth
  • Rothesay
  • Saltcoats
  • Thornliebank
  • Turriff
  • Wick

Eight lockdown deaths at hotel used to shelter homeless

The deaths of four men and four women at the Alexander Thomson spanned a four-month period.

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Hotel deaths: The Alexander Thomson on Argyle Street.

Eight people have died at a hotel in Glasgow used to shelter the homeless during lockdown.

The deaths of four men and four women at the Alexander Thomson on Argyle Street happened between April and August.

Authorities called the situation “tragic” and said other people staying at the hotel have been offered support.

Seven of the deaths have been treated as unexplained, pending the outcome of a post mortem, while one was considered non-suspicious.

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The first was a 38-year-old woman on April 25, before a 21-year-old man died on May 17.

A 43-year-old man died on June 7 and a fortnight later another man, 43, died at the hotel.

On July 28, a 25-year-old man and 44-year-old woman died on the same day.

Almost a month later on August 27, a 49-year-old woman died. The following day, the only death at the hotel confirmed as non-suspicious – a 48-year-old woman – was reported.

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Glasgow MSP James Kelly said it was a “horribly sad situation” and a “real cause for concern”.

The Labour politician added: “It’s long been clear that real action must be taken by Glasgow City Council to improve the conditions in homeless hostels throughout the city.

“Particularly at this time, while we are in the middle of a global pandemic and on the cusp of a second wave of Covid-19, people must be able to access the correct resources to keep themselves and others safe.”

Glasgow’s Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) said help was available to those who need it.

A spokeswoman said: “These deaths are tragic and our thoughts go out to the friends and families of those who have passed away.

“We have ensured the hotel is well supported by staff from voluntary organisations and the HSCP who provide in-reaching services and assistance to those who require it.

“These services provide accessible routes into mental health and addiction treatment services. We continue to review these arrangements with key partners regularly and where necessary, will make changes ensuring those with the most complex needs are supported.

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“We have also located our Housing First Assessment Team in the hotel to support people into more settled accommodation as it becomes available with the lifting of Covid restrictions and as the city’s Registered Social Landlords return to business as usual.”

The Alexander Thomson Hotel has been approached for comment.


Worker embezzled £240k in drugs and cash from Crown Office

Katherine Vaughan also stole other items during her job as a production keeper in Aberdeen.

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Guilty plea: Katherine Vaughan appeared at the High Court in Edinburgh.

A woman has been told she faces jail after she admitted embezzling more than £90,000 in cash and taking £147,000 of drugs and other items from the Crown Office.

Katherine Vaughan appeared at the High Court in Edinburgh on Wednesday and her guilty plea was entered by her lawyer, Ximena Vengoechea.

The court heard the 34-year-old, from Aberdeen, worked as a production keeper for the Crown Office in the city when she took £91,832.82 between January 1 2011 and September 27 2019, as well as a wide range of other items.

All had been lodged during the course of criminal investigations and it was her job to keep them safe.

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Her crimes began to unfold after Crown Office administration manager Kelly Goate made plans to rotate staff to give them a broader experience.

When told of her intention to move her position on September 24 2019, it was heard Vaughan became emotional.

The court was told she then approached Ms Goate to tell her the production store had been left open at the weekend.

A police investigation was sparked when it was found that items had been tampered with and an interview was carried out with Vaughan on September 27, 2019.

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Alex Prentice QC, for the Crown, said: “At that point, Vaughan spontaneously stated that she suffered from mental health issues, that she had been stealing cash productions from the production store throughout the year to subsidise her income, and that there were further cash productions in her home address.”

It was heard subsequent searches at her Great Northern Road home saw substantial amounts of money recovered, as well as £147,720 worth of drugs and other items.

These included sanitary pads, a stun gun, cigarette ends, chewing gum, jewellery, cling film and a safe.

Mr Prentice told the court it is not clear what happened to the money she embezzled, although it is possible she “squandered” it.

It was also heard Vaughan – who has since been working at restaurant chain Nando’s – did not appear to have taken the drugs for profit or use.

The substances included crack cocaine, cocaine, MDMA and cannabis.

Ms Vengoechea asked judge Lord Beckett to adjourn the case for eight weeks to allow more time for psychiatric reports to shed light on her client’s mental health, however only four weeks were given.

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The judge told Vaughan: “You have pled guilty to extremely serious criminal conduct, the court does not know the whole background.

“But whatever that background, this amounts to extremely serious criminal conduct.

“Given the gravity of this case and the inevitable prison sentence, I don’t consider it appropriate to continue bail and you will be remanded in custody.”

The case is due to recall on October 28 at the same court.


Cast assembled, now it’s time for Steve Clarke to direct his play

Scotland have the opportunity to reach a major finals for the first time since 1998 if everything goes to script.

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Clarke faces a definitive week.

As curtain raisers go, it was pretty low key.

There was little drama on Tuesday as Steve Clarke revealed his Scotland squad to face Israel in next week’s Euro 2020 play-off semi-final, but the announcement drew focus to arguably the national team’s greatest opportunity in 17 years.

Back then, in 2003, a play-off against Netherlands offered a chance to reach the Euros and after a 1-0 win in Glasgow raised hopes beyond reason, a 6-0 defeat to a surgical Dutch side (re-)introduced fans to the theatre of cruelty.

Since then, as World Cup cycle followed Euros cycle, the side in dark blue has seen qualification campaigns end in sporting tragedy or comedy, or some grotesque combination of the two.

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Next Thursday, Clarke can take Scotland one step closer to the biggest stage, with a win against Israel putting the team 90 minutes away from a first bow at a major finals since 1998. Assembling a squad is only the first part and the performance might define his time at Hampden.

The former Kilmarnock boss wasn’t responsible for the booking, of course. It was Alex McLeish who led Scotland to win their Nations League group and secure the play-off spot. It was only supposed to be insurance, a ‘Break in case of emergency’ if the team failed to make it through the proper qualifiers.

Looking ahead to next week’s game, the key to a showdown with Norway or Serbia in the final, is an invitation to look back to a match in November 2018 where McLeish’s side won 3-2 to ensure a second chance at reaching the Euros.

The opposition? Israel. The location? Hampden. The squad? The key players? The pressing issues? Different and the same.

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Scotland’s three goals that night were created by Ryan Fraser and Ryan Christie, with both in the squad this time around. Fraser has been recalled after missing the last international camp because he was without a club when the season started. A Bournemouth player then, a new recruit at Newcastle now, he could be a significant addition to Clarke’s armoury.

Christie and Fraser’s creativity that night allowed James Forrest to help himself to a first hat-trick in a Scotland shirt. The Celtic star was absent from Clarke’s list of players this time around, injured and leaving his international boss the first of several questions to be answered next week.

It isn’t the most pressing and those that are the most concerning were unresolved issues two years ago when the play-off place was earned.

Back then, McLeish named a back line of Andy Robertson, Scott McKenna, David Bates and Callum Paterson. It was only the latest attempt to find a defence that might stand up to the acute stresses of international football and the fact that Bates isn’t in the latest squad, while Paterson is included primarily as a forward is all you need to know.

Kieran Tierney was injured back then, sparing McLeish the question of how to accommodate him and Robertson in the same team.

Clarke’s approach, judging by the recent double-header against Israel and Czech Republic, is to keep his captain wide and make Tierney one of a back three, as he is growing used to at Arsenal. It looks like it could work but Manchester United midfielder Scott McTominay being pressed into action in the back three doesn’t. Clarke claims his players are “comfortable with the two systems we’ve given them” but he has a decision to make about his defensive shape and personnel.

Ryan Porteous, a surprise call-up, is unlikely to take McTominay’s place with the manager at pains to explain that the defender was suspended from under-21 games but could join the senior team and benefit from the experience. It would be a surprise if the Hibs stopper was pitched in against Israel but he may get his chance against Slovakia or Czech Republic after the main event.

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The other area where Clarke faces the same puzzle as his predecessor is in the striker’s position. McLeish opted for Steven Fletcher but the veteran forward failed to get in on the act as Forrest helped himself to goals.

Fletcher didn’t make Clarke’s squad but the manager was happy to talk about the options he did have at his disposal. Lyndon Dykes returns after his decision to commit to Scotland over Australia brought him a goal in his second appearance last month. Oli Burke is in having found playing time at Sheffield United, while club teammate Oli McBurnie is back having found fitness. Paterson is an alternative for Clarke and Lawrence Shankland an appealing choice now the Dundee United striker is fit again.

It’s a varied selection with different strengths but a glaring concern. The five forwards in the squad have three international goals between them and none have scored double figures in a season in a top-flight professional league. For reference, Israel forward Eran Zahavi has 20 international goals from his 54 caps. Potential play-off final opponents Norway can call upon Erling Haaland who has as many international goals as all the Scotland strikers combined. He scored them in just four games. He’s only 20.

Headaches at the back and questions about who can deliver goals at the sharp end are nothing new for a Scotland manager. Clarke has experimented with varying success in both areas but he has to get it right this time with little time to prepare.

The manager seemed unruffled when asked if he had concerns about the lack of preparation time with some players, saying that the groundwork had been laid in previous international camps. There’s a plan in place and Clarke has had a long, long time to prepare for a situation he knows can light a fire under the team and usher in a new period of optimism, or see another missed opportunity leave the nation debating the same old issues.

Next week it all has to come together. The manager has assembled his cast and now comes the hard part: making sure it all goes to script.


Prestwick Airport sale grounded after bidder pulls out

Transport secretary Michael Matheson confirmed the prospective buyer has walked away due to the impact of coronavirus.

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Prestwick Airport: The preferred bidder has pulled out due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The planned sale of Prestwick Airport has been grounded after the preferred bidder pulled out.

On Wednesday, transport secretary Michael Matheson confirmed the prospective buyer has walked away from completing a deal due to the impact of coronavirus on the aviation industry.

He said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the aviation sector globally and, unfortunately, it has now affected the planned sale process of Glasgow Prestwick Airport.  

“We have been advised that the company selected as preferred bidder does not wish to complete the purchase of the business at this time.  

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“While this is a disappointing development, we understand businesses across the aviation sector are having to take difficult decisions to respond to the collapse in demand.”

The South Ayrshire airport was taken into public ownership in November 2013, after being threatened with closure following heavy losses.

The Scottish Government paid a token £1 for the airport, which has since cost taxpayers tens of millions of pounds in failed loans.

Talks with the prospective buyer began in late 2019 after it was put up for sale last June.

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Matheson said ministers would now “consider future options”, but is “confident” the airport has a role to play in Scotland’s aviation sector.

He said: “It’s important to remember that Glasgow Prestwick Airport continues to develop as a specialist airport, carving a niche in a very competitive market.  

“The recent financial results – showing an increase revenue and reduction in operating losses – are encouraging and underline the significant efforts of the Prestwick team. 

“We will now consider future options for Glasgow Prestwick Airport in light of this development, as well as the ongoing challenges for the industry, but remain confident it has a role to play in Scotland’s aviation sector. 

“As we have done throughout this process, we will update Parliament at the appropriate times.

“More widely, we remain committed to working with all of Scotland’s airports to help restore connectivity for business and tourism to help our economy recover”.


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