Various investigations and exclusives about financial ties between the state-owned Glasgow Prestwick Airport, the Trump Organisation, and US president Donald Trump’s administration, published in The Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday. Copyright belongs to the respective publications. Click the blue links where applicable to read the original web version of the stories.
Prestwick ‘waiving’ fees for US military aircraft – from The Scotsman – An investigation into alleged business practices between the state-owned airport and the US military, an area which at the time of writing, is the focus of a Congressional inquiry
The state-owned Glasgow Prestwick Airport is waiving service fees for inbound US military aircraft as part of an alleged practice designed to increase traffic at the beleaguered airport and safeguard its lucrative commercial relationship with the US Defence Department, multiple sources familiar with its operations have told The Scotsman.
The heavily-indebted airport, which is at the centre of a US Congressional investigation over the US military’s financial ties with Prestwick and President Donald Trump’s nearby Trump Turnberry resort, is alleged to have waived the so-called service fees for several hundred flights by branches of the US Armed Forces.
Sources with direct knowledge of US military business at Prestwick said the cost to the airport and, as a result, Scottish taxpayers, runs into seven figures. “Scottish taxpayers are picking up the tab for the largest and wealthiest military force on the planet,” one explained.
The airport, a publicly-owned asset which is operated on a fully commercial basis, has repeatedly declined to answer a series of questions put to it by The Scotsman regarding the allegations it is waiving the service fees.
The US Embassy in London also declined to confirm whether it was aware of the allegations.
But Patrick Harvie MSP, co-leader of the Scottish Greens, called on the airport’s relationship with the US military to be “suspended at once.”
He said: “In light of these staggering allegations that the Scottish Government owned airport is giving freebies to the US military, ministers must urgently explain how on earth they have allowed this to happen.”
The hub was put up for sale by the Scottish Government in June. A new buyer is expected to be announced shortly. It is running at an annual loss of £7.6m and is reliant on £38.4m in loans from Scottish ministers. The US Armed Forces budget stands at £563bn.
The South Ayrshire airport does not publicly disclose the exact cost of the service fees it ordinarily charges, but several sources indicated the charges in question would reach around £2,000 for larger aircraft such as Boeing C-17 Globemaster III military transports, with the fee falling to around £750 for smaller aircraft such as C-37 Gulfstream jets.
The allegations facing the airport will likely draw increased scrutiny from both sides of the Atlantic at a time when the powerful House Oversight and Reform Committee in the US Congress is investigating US military payments at both Prestwick and Trump Turnberry amid concerns of “serious conflicts of interest” and potential violations of the foreign emoluments clause of the US constitution.
Sources with knowledge of Prestwick’s in-house fixed base operations (FBO) business said the alleged waiving of the service fees has been taking place since around 2016 to 2017 with the full knowledge of senior management.
One senior source familiar with the airport’s military business said that the decision to waive the fees was made to ensure the troubled hub was seen as competitive in the eyes of the US military, and protect a lucrative multimillion pound refuelling deal with a US Defence Department agency.
As revealed by The Scotsman in June, the Defence Logistics Agency (DLA), a Virginia-based body which manages the global supply chain for the US Army, Navy, and Air Force, has paid Prestwick nearly £14m to refuel aircraft since October 2017.
The House committee launched its investigation in June, writing to Pentagon to demand the release of spending records and communications between the US Defence Department and Prestwick and Turnberry.
The Defence Department has in turn referred the request for its communications with Prestwick to the White House.
In recent weeks, The Scotsman has also revealed how Trump Turnberry was the only hotel named in literature distributed by Prestwick at closed door meetings with US military, despite the fact it is one of 13 hotels used to accommodate aircrews. The airport’s website was subsequently edited to remove several mentions of Mr Trump’s property, including in a section dedicated to military customers.
One source familiar with Prestwick’s military business explained: “I would suggest what’s happening is the Scottish taxpayers are picking up the tab for the largest and wealthiest military force on the planet. The US military crews pick up the fuel as part of the DLA contract, and that’s it.
“It’s unnecessary. The US military budget is colossal and they don’t care what they spend. It’s just done to try and encourage as much traffic as possible to Prestwick.”
Another source with knowledge of Prestwick’s operations confirmed: “The only charges the US military get are fuel costs. Everything else is waived. That’s on the basis the DLA contract is fairly lucrative and those fees should be waived.”
The Scotsman can also reveal a series of other fees chargeable to US military aircraft are being picked up by UK taxpayers via the Ministry of Defence (MoD) as part of a longstanding reciprocal deal with the US Defence Department. While this specific arrangement – confirmed by the MoD – is little known, even within defence circles, there is no suggestion it is improper or flouts any laws.
It is unclear exactly how many inbound US military flights have stopped at Prestwick in the past three years, but figures compiled by the US Air Force (USAF) after it emerged the Congressional investigation was underway show its aircraft made 841 stopovers since the start of 2016 through to August this year.
The frequency of those stopovers have increased markedly over the period, rising from 145 in 2016 to 180 in 2017 and 257 in 2018. There were 259 stopovers in the first eight months of this year.
Last month, The Scotsman revealed how in August, a new, even more lucrative deal struck by the DLA with Prestwick to provide it with approximately 12.4 million gallons of aviation fuel through to the end of September 2024 had been postponed.
A source familiar with the deal said it had been “kicked into the long grass” as a result of the Congressional scrutiny. The DLA said the decision was unrelated to the committee’s inquiry.
The alleged waiving of the service fees by Prestwick covers a range of goods and services that are routinely charged by the airport and provided by its FBO team. They include providing marshals, placing and removing chocks and crew steps, and transporting crews and freight.
The exact amount that has been picked up by the MoD for the other fees is unclear, although those familiar with the costings claim the bill for the USAF flights that have stopped off at Prestwick in recent years alone would also run into seven figures.
That arrangement sees the MoD picking up the cost of so-called landing, navigation and parking fees, and forms part of a reciprocal deal struck with its counterpart in Washington DC which sees authorities in the US pick up the bill for landing, navigation and parking fees whenever UK military aircraft use US airports.
However, the economic parity of the arrangement is unclear, and depends largely on the amount of military traffic, and the types of aircraft.
The Scotsman has also obtained information prepared by senior management at the airport as it attempts to stem losses before being returned to private ownership.
It includes details of discussions to sell off property to a range of interested parties, including the MoD and the housebuilding firm, Persimmon Homes.
Prestwick executives have also held talks with Sierra Nevada Corporation, the US firm behind the Dream Chaser space plane, as part of the airport’s ambitions to host a spaceport.
A spokesman for the MoD confirmed it was picking up various fees for US military aircraft at Prestwick.
He said: “The UK does not pay handling fees for US military aircraft however, under a reciprocal arrangement, the MoD pays landing, parking and navigation fees for US military aircraft and likewise the US Department of Defence pays such fees for UK military aircraft in the US.”
Asked about the alleged service fee waivers, a spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority said airport charges in the UK were discretionary, and that individual airports could apply “whatever charges they think appropriate to their various customers” through commercial arrangements.
He added that with the exception of Heathrow, airport charges are not subject to regulation.
Glasgow Prestwick Airport declined to answer a series of questions put to it by The Scotsman about the alleged service fee waivers, including how it provides value for money to taxpayers, and whether any similar arrangement is in place with other military or commercial customers.
Asked if it or the Scottish Government was aware, or had any oversight over, or input into, the alleged waiving of service fees at Prestwick, a spokeswoman for the executive agency, Transport Scotland, said: “Glasgow Prestwick Airport is operated on a commercial basis and at arm’s length from the Scottish Government, in compliance with European Union state aid rules. Ministers do not intervene in the commercial discussions at the airport.
“The senior management team at the airport has been tasked with all aspects of taking the airport forward, including building on existing revenue streams. Glasgow Prestwick Airport has handled military and private flights since the 1930s and it remains an important part of the airport’s business.”
The USAF referred The Scotsman’s enquiry about the alleged service fee waivers to the US Office of the Secretary of Defence, who referred it to the US Department of Transportation. It was subsequently passed to the US State Department and the US Embassy in London.
A spokeswoman for the embassy did not directly address the question of whether it was aware of the allegations that Prestwick was waiving the fees.
She said: “The United States has reciprocal understandings with many nations, including the United Kingdom, whereby airports waive landing and parking fees for government aircraft.”
Government minister warned about Prestwick US military allegations last year – from The Scotsman
A senior Scottish Government minister was warned of allegations that Glasgow Prestwick Airport is using taxpayers’ funds to “financially subsidise” US military aircraft at the struggling hub.
Justice secretary Humza Yousaf was sent allegations last year about the misuse of public funds at the loss making state-owned airport, which has seen a significant spike in US military traffic in recent years.
Opposition politicians have accused the SNP MSP of “gross hypocrisy” over its stance towards US president Donald Trump, and accused the Scottish Government of “subsidising Mr Trump’s military expansion.”
As revealed by The Scotsman yesterday, multiple sources familiar with the troubled airport’s military business allege it is waiving so-called service fees for inbound US Armed Forces flights in order to bolster traffic and maintain its lucrative commercial relationship with the US Defence Department.
Sources with direct knowledge of US military business at Prestwick said the cost to the heavily-indebted airport and, as a result, Scottish taxpayers, runs into seven figures. The fees in question can amount to several thousand pounds, depending on the type and weight of individual aircraft.
The executive agency, Transport Scotland, had declined to address whether it or the government were aware of the allegations that the airport – reliant on loans from Scottish ministers worth £38.4m – was waiving service fees for the US military.
But The Scotsman has learned that while serving as transport minister, Mr Yousaf received specific warnings last year that the South Ayrshire airport was using “public loans from Scottish taxpayers to financially subsidise US military flights.”
The information sent to Mr Yousaf’s office, which has been seen and verified by The Scotsman, included specific allegations that the airport was waiving fees for customers.
Mr Yousaf’s office is understood to have passed the matter to Transport Scotland, who claimed the airport alone was responsible for deciding whether to strike “potential deals.”
Responding to the allegations in private after they were raised last year, a staff member at the agency wrote back: “It is for the airport’s management team to consider all potential business opportunities to take the airport forward, which includes any potential deals they offer to potential customers.”
It added: “The Scottish Government does not intervene in Prestwick Airport’s commercial discussions and the airport must be free to operate on such a commercial basis, in line with state aid rules. Any deals and incentives that Prestwick offer is a matter for the airport.”
Transport Scotland last night told The Scotsman it was for Prestwick to determine the “specific detail of any commercial arrangements,” and said ministers and officials have had no contact with the US military, the Trump Organisation or Trump Turnberry regarding Prestwick.
However, amid ongoing scrutiny of spending by the US military spending at the airport and Mr Trump’s nearby resort – where the Pentagon has spent at least £147,000 between August 2017 and this July on rooms for US aircrews – calls for transparency are growing.
Michael Matheson, the transport secretary, has previously confirmed to Holyrood that Prestwick is responsible for booking rooms at Turnberry for US crews on layovers at Prestwick. Mr Trump’s resort is one of 13 hotels used for bookings, but was the only one named on pamphlets distributed at closed door meetings between Prestwick staff and US Armed Forces representatives.
Responding to the news that Mr Yousaf’s office has long been aware of allegations about Prestwick’s financial arrangement with the US military, Patrick Harvie MSP, co-leader of the Scottish Greens, said: “If this is correct then it means ministers knew that a public asset was handing out freebies to the outrageously well-resourced American military machine.
“What’s worse is that they did not intervene, because the airport is owned by the Scottish Government. In other words, an asset owned by the Scottish people is subsidising Donald Trump’s military expansion and the Scottish Government felt that was legitimate business by its airport?
“That is totally unacceptable. The relationship between Prestwick and the US military must be halted immediately, and I expect the transport secretary to make a statement to parliament explaining exactly how this has been allowed to happen.”
Jamie Greene, the Scottish Conservatives’ shadow transport secretary, said: “This reeks of gross hypocrisy from Humza Yousaf who is first to criticise Donald Trump when it suits him in public, whilst apparently turning a blind eye to deals with the US administration in private.”
“The SNP cannot escape the fact that they have hopelessly mismanaged Prestwick and failed to deliver a long-term strategy that attracts investment and secures the future of the airport.”
Colin Smyth, Scottish Labour’s shadow transport secretary, said: “The level of hypocrisy from the Scottish Government is breathtaking. On the one hand they criticise Trump and his foreign policies and on the other hand, SNP ministers has been found out for keeping secret the level to which the US Air Force has been touted for business.
“It’s time for the SNP government to come clean on the extent to which the deals with the American military have contributed to what appears to be a turnaround in the airport finances in the last year.
“If there is an over reliance then it raises real questions over whether the recovery is sustainable should the current US inquiry lead to a cut in usage of Prestwick by the American military.”
He added: “At the end of the day this is a publicly owned airport which has received a huge amount of taxpayers money and where thousands of people rely on for direct and indirect jobs.
“We need the maximum transparency from the government to reassure workers instead of the current cover up of the facts we are seeing from ministers which will do nothing to instil confidence in any potential buyer”
The Scotsman has also obtained confidential board minutes from meetings of Prestwick Airport Holdings Limited which details extensive discussions about changes to the way fuel sales are recorded in financial accounts.
The public versions of the minutes, which date back to last summer, are heavily redacted on the basis of Prestwick’s commercial interests. However, the original, unredacted versions reveal the scope of the airport’s commercial interests.
They refer to “several changes” to the content and format of executive reports, so that they only highlight areas of “importance, concern, and interest.”
They note that “military and general aviation” are to be included in the finance report, and suggest Prestwick’s management have made changes to the way it records revenue from fuel sales, referencing the “financial performance of fuel uplift rather than quantity.”
Elsewhere, the minutes detail talks of the “increase in military activity and associated fuel uplift” at the hub, and includes suggestions of “extrapolating out President’s Trump’s visit.” The minutes note that “this number would distort the figures going forward.”
The airport did not respond to questions about any such changes to how it records fuel sales and Mr Trump’s visits.
A spokesman for Transport Scotland said: “We are aware of the correspondence which made reference in general terms to US military traffic. We responded at the time, stressing it is for Glasgow Prestwick Airport to determine the specific detail of any commercial arrangements, a position we have been clear about from the outset.
“Prestwick is operated on a commercial basis and at arm’s length from the Scottish Government, in compliance with European Union state aid rules. Ministers do not intervene in the commercial discussions at the airport.”
He added: “The senior management team at the airport has been tasked with all aspects of taking the airport forward, including building on existing revenue streams. Prestwick has handled military and private flights since the 1930s and it remains an important part of the airport’s business. Arrangements are no different to those in place before the airport was brought into public ownership.
“Ministers and officials have had no contact with the US military, Trump Organisation or Trump Turnberry in relation to Prestwick Airport. There have been no meetings, calls or correspondence to discuss the commercial arrangements of Prestwick with these bodies.”
Government owned airport’s £9m payday from US military – from The Scotsman
The publicly-owned Prestwick Airport has received more than £9m from Donald Trump’s administration in the past two years to refuel hundreds of US Armed Forces aircraft, an investigation by The Scotsman can reveal.
The loss making state-owned hub, which was put up for sale earlier this month by the Scottish Government, has received close to 650 orders since October 2017 for jet fuel.
Contract details drawn up by a US Defence Department agency indicate the deal could ultimately secure Prestwick’s parent company an additional £8m, while a new contract is set to extend the arrangement until autumn 2024.
The flurry of transactions – the equivalent of more than 35 a month – has reignited criticism of the SNP government for fostering close economic ties with the US military while publicly admonishing the president’s character and his foreign policies.
Patrick Harvie, co-convener of the Scottish Greens, said the “sheer scale” of US military activity at the airport uncovered by The Scotsman was “breathtaking,” while Scottish Labour’s Jackie Baillie accused the SNP of “breathtaking hypocrisy” and urged it to “come clean” about the extent of the US involvement at Prestwick.
However, Prestwick has stressed that details of its commercial contracts were confidential, while the Scottish Government said the airport is operated at arms-length and on a commercial basis.
While the South Ayrshire airport has made no secret of its efforts to woo foreign military customers in recent years to counter plummeting revenue from commercial flights, neither it nor the Scottish Government have ever disclosed the extent of its windfall from the US government.
But a slew of US federal government procurement records and defence agency contracts analysed by The Scotsman show that between 3 October 2017 and 23 March this year, Prestwick has received more than £9.02m.
In all, some 64 pages of US government procurement records detail 644 separate orders placed for aviation turbine fuel by the energy division of the US Defence Logistics Agency (DLA), a Virginia-based body which manages the global supply chain for the US Army, Navy, and Air Force.
The lucrative deal with the US military is now the beleaguered airport’s single biggest revenue stream by some considerable distance. In the first three months of 2019, for instance, the DLA authorised payments to Prestwick worth £1.4m. That is more than twice the revenue generated via passenger services in the entirety of 2017/18.
No details are available of the aircraft that were refuelled or the nature of their engagement, but the payments spiked in October and November last year, a period which coincided with intensive US airstrikes in Afghanistan and Somalia, according to data collated by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
The airport’s parent company, Glasgow Prestwick Airport Limited, received £1.7m and £1.4m respectively in those months.
One source familiar with Prestwick’s military movements said that while US military equipment is transferred via RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk, Prestwick predominantly serves as a conduit for special forces and private military contractors.
While Prestwick’s contract with the DLA is set to expire in September this year, the total payments under the deal could reach as much as £16.91m, according to the DLA contract.
The Scotsman has learned that the airport is set to secure a new, longer contract with the agency. The extended deal – known as a EUCOM Into-Plane contract – will come into force on 1 October and lasts until 30 September 2024.
Its value has yet to be determined, but it is understood the new deal would allow for the supply of around 12.4 million gallons of aviation fuel, around three million more than the existing arrangement.
Key figures within the SNP, including First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, are among the most high-profile critics in Britain of Mr Trump and his administration’s foreign policy.
The SNP’s Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, last year criticised Prime Minister Theresa May for appearing “beholden” to the US president instead of parliament over the UK’s role in Syrian air strikes, and accused her government of having “danced to the tune of President Trump.”
During Mr Trump’s state visit to the UK earlier this month, Stewart McDonald, the party’s defence spokesman, urged Ms May to press the US government for an unredacted Senate intelligence report into the use of Scottish airports, including Prestwick, for CIA rendition flights, so as to determine “if crimes were committed.”
The magnitude of the US military payments detailed by The Scotsman has drawn the ire of Patrick Harvie MSP, co-convener of the Scottish Greens, and another vocal detractor of Mr Trump.
“We have known that the government-owned Prestwick Airport has been supporting the US military for some time, but the sheer scale of activity uncovered by The Scotsman is breathtaking,” he said.
“Not only is Prestwick being used for active missions, the US military is its biggest customer. When the airport itself won’t comment on contracts, it is beholden on ministers to answer the big questions.”
He added: “The Scottish Government must take responsibility for the use of our public asset in this way.
“The Scottish Greens want an independent Scotland to forge a new, progressive and peaceful relationship with the world, not prop up Donald Trump’s militaristic agenda. It’s time for the SNP to step up to the plate on this if they’re serious about forging a new path for Scotland.”
The US Air Force (USAF) has previously confirmed Prestwick – the first mainland airport between the USA and Europe on the so-called Great Circle Route – has been used to support frontline US military operations.
Documents released to The Guardian newspaper last year under freedom of information legislation show Hercules C130 cargo planes are among those aircraft to have participated in ”active duty missions” from the airport, with Stratotanker air-to-air refuelling aircraft also checking in at Prestwick.
The Boeing VC-25 Air Force One used by Mr Trump also touched down at the airport last July alongside a USAF Boeing C-32 during the 73-year-old’s two day visit to his loss making Turnberry hotel and golf resort. Two vast USAF Lockheed C-5 Galaxy military transport aircraft also flew in to Prestwick in support of the visit.
USAF aircraft to use the airport in recent months include McDonnell Douglas KC-10 Extender aerial refueling tankers, and Boeing C-17 Globemaster military transports.
Jackie Baillie, the Scottish Labour MSP for Dumbarton and a prominent critic of the government’s stewardship of Prestwick, said: “The SNP government is guilty of the most breathtaking hypocrisy. On the one hand they criticise Trump and his foreign policies and on the other Keith Brown runs to America touting for business for Prestwick from the US Air Force.
“The US Air Force has confirmed that these aircraft are engaged in ‘active missions’ but the SNP don’t know what these are and seem happy to turn a blind eye in exchange for millions of pounds.
“It’s time for the SNP to come clean about the extent of US involvement and just how much money they have received, which mysteriously doesn’t appear to be recorded anywhere.”
The ties between Mr Trump and the airport have been under scrutiny ever since the 73-year-old took over the Turnberry resort five years ago.
A joint press release issued by the two businesses in November 2014 to coincide with Mr Trump’s visit to Scotland referred to an “official partnership” and a “strategic alliance,” but the relationship has been drastically downplayed ever since Mr Trump embarked on a controversial career in politics.
Even so, the Scotsman revealed in November 2017 how Trump Turnberry was invited by Prestwick lobby a prospective airline amid attempts to return the airport to profit.
Representatives from Mr Trump’s loss making firm were asked to travel with airport and local authority staff to Denmark to “pitch” to the airline, with the Scottish Government was made aware of the arrangement.
The previous February, meanwhile, our sister paper, Scotland on Sunday, obtained a tranche of documents which showed the airport held unminuted discussions over “potential partnership opportunities” and disclosed business development targets with Trump Turnberry.
The struggling airport was bought by the Scottish Government for a nominal fee of £1 in November 2013 to save it from closure, but it has since required a succession of loans totalling nearly £40m to stay in business. Accounts filed with Companies House show its holding company made a loss of £7.6m in the 12 months to March 2018.
The details of the DLA payments are not detailed in the annual reports of Glasgow Prestwick Airport Limited or its parent company, TS Prestwick Holdco Limited.
When the government confirmed earlier this month that Prestwick was formally up for sale, transport secretary Michael Mathieson pointed to the “good progress” that had been made towards increasing its revenue.
But the tender contract advertised on the Public Contracts Scotland procurement site makes no mention of the DLA deal, noting only that the airport “offers a wide range of aviation services including freight, passenger military, specialist executive handling as well as general aviation.”
A spokeswoman for Prestwick Airport said: “We do not disclose any information about our commercial contracts.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Prestwick Airport is operated on a commercial basis and at arm’s length from the Scottish Government, in compliance with European Union state aid rules. Ministers do not intervene in the commercial discussions at the airport.
“The senior management team at the airport has been tasked with all aspects of taking the airport forward, including building on existing revenue streams.
“Prestwick Airport has handled military and private flights since the 1930s and it remains an important part of the airport’s business”.
A spokesman for the DLA said: “DLA Energy has confirmed with Glasgow Prestwick Airport that the Scottish Government is looking to test the market and potentially return the airport to private ownership.
“In the meantime, all indications are that the airport will remain focused on serving DLA Energy customers under the current contract and the follow on contract, tentatively scheduled to be awarded prior to 1 October 2019.”
Trump’s official partnership with Prestwick – from Scotland on Sunday – An investigation into the commercial relationship between the Scottish Government-owned Prestwick Airport and Donald Trump, at the time of writing a Republican US presidential candidate
THE TROUBLED Prestwick Airport, owned by the Scottish Government, has been involved in negotiations with Donald Trump in an effort to return it to profit – at the same time as senior SNP figures have been calling for the US presidential candidate to be banned from the UK, Scotland on Sunday can reveal.
The Scottish Government was last night accused of hypocrisy and urged to disclose the precise nature of its relationship with the controversial Republican frontrunner after a tranche of correspondence detailed Prestwick Airport’s extensive dealings with Trump.
Officials at the loss-making Glasgow Prestwick Airport and Trump’s executives have explored working together to “win” business and the “integration” of their operations.
The precise nature of Prestwick’s high-profile ties with the controversial US presidential candidate has long been unclear. It was described in a joint press release in November 2014 as an “official partnership” and a “strategic alliance.”
The airport now insists it has no “official partnership contract in place” with the magnate or his Turnberry resort and that he has merely offered a “show of support” for the beleaguered hub.
But a tranche of documents released to Scotland on Sunday show the airport has held unminuted discussions over “potential partnership opportunities” and disclosed business development targets with Trump Turnberry, which has not been required to sign non-disclosure agreements (NDA).
The relationship was announced in grand style two years ago when Trump touched down at Prestwick in his Boeing 757 jet. The airport charges him undisclosed fees for fuelling, airside parking, landing charges and hangar space for the aircraft and his Sikorsky S-76 helicopter.
Although there have been no further public announcements, the correspondence – released under Freedom of Information (FoI) legislation – details extensive private discussions.
The airport said it “holds a presentation that was shared with Trump Turnberry in relation to business development targets.” However, it withheld it from the FoI release, claiming it would “prejudge our commercial interest”.
It added that “it has had dialogue from employees from Trump Turnberry resort to discuss potential partnership opportunities. There were no minutes taken of these discussions.”
In an email sent last March to Ralph Porciani, general manager at Trump Turnberry, Jules Matteoni, Prestwick’s manager of fire service, passenger services, transport and security, asked to meet Turnberry staff at “short notice” to “have a think about integration of your business and ours before the season starts”.
He referenced a meeting at Prestwick four days previously with Porciani, stating: “I trust you have confidence in the operation now.”
Last September, Matteoni wrote to Trump Turnberry’s sales director, Gillian McNeilly, concerning a commercial deal, details of which were redacted by Prestwick. He told her: “If we want to win this business then we should work together on pricing and have a package that is highly attractive.”
The airport was taken over by the government in 2003 for £1. It made losses of £4.1m last year, with loan financing from the government increasing from £4.5m in March 2014 to £10.8m 12 months later.
Former First Minister Alex Salmond and Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh MP were among those SNP politicians to call on Trump to be banned from the UK over his contentious remarks about Muslims, while Nicola Sturgeon stripped him of his Global Scot status.
Alex Johnstone, infrastructure and transport spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives, said: “On the one hand SNP MPs want to ban Donald Trump from the UK, but on the other, the airport the Scottish Government owns appears to be going out its way to curry favour with him.
“It makes sense for an airport like Prestwick to work closely with local businesses like Turnberry. But the SNP has to stop being so hypocritical about the situation – it can’t have it both ways.”
He added: “People will find it very strange that Prestwick shares this information with Trump, while claiming there’s no official partnership in place. The Scottish Government should explain this arrangement as a matter of urgency.”
David Stewart, Scottish Labour’s transport spokesman, said: “The SNP clearly has some explaining to do here. Mr Trump has threatened to walk away from his businesses in Scotland yet Prestwick seems desperate to get together with Trump Turnberry. We need full disclosure of what is going on.”
Kirsten Sweeney, Prestwick’s communications manager, characterised the airport’s relationship with Turnberry as “long running” and one that would continue. Its link with Trump Turnberry, she said, was “mutually supportive”.
Asked why it had disclosed business development targets with Trump’s firm despite the fact there is “no legal contract between the two organisations,” she said: “When you enter into these discussions, there is an element of trust that has to be had between the organisations that are looking to build a partnership with each other. It’s the same process we have in many of our business development discussions with potential customers or partners.
“There would be a starting point where we’d share a certain level of information about how we’re looking to develop our business to find out if synergies are there, and if there are, then look at working together.”
“Trump Turnberry have not signed any NDA with us. We present some of our thoughts and analysis about potential customers as a matter of course when having these discussions, and we wouldn’t really get off on the best foot with an organisation if the first thing we did was ask them to sign an NDA before we had a conversation. They would come into play when we get down to actuals and figures.”
She added: “We have kept the Scottish Government across no more or no less any of these discussions than we would discussions with any other potential customer or partner, and no more or no less than any other organisation would do with its shareholders.”
George Sorial, executive vice president of the Trump Organisation, said its ties with Prestwick had “nothing to do with our relationship with the Scottish Government” and that it was “united” with Prestwick “in any efforts to restore the airport”.
Asked if an “official partnership” existed, as outlined in the joint press release, he explained: “I think people use the word partnership colloquially. It doesn’t necessarily connote a full-blown partnership in the sense of a legal business relationship, so I think as a matter of law, they are not our partner.”
On whether Trump’s companies would invest directly at Prestwick, he said although this wasn’t under consideration at present, “that’s not ruling out. If there was a proposal on the table that made sense, obviously we would evaluate it.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Government agency, Transport Scotland, said: “Glasgow Prestwick Airport is being operated on a commercial basis and at arm’s length from the Scottish Government.
“The senior management team at the airport has been tasked with all aspects of taking the airport forward, including building on existing revenue streams and exploring new ones.”
WHEN the partnership was announced between Glasgow Prestwick Airport and the Trump Organisation, Trump vowed that it would help bolster the economic fortunes of the struggling airport with “hundreds” of private flights as well-heeled golfers jetted in to play the billionaire’s courses.
He said: “We are going to have planes coming in from New York and all over, high-level planes like Gulfstreams and Bombardiers.”
But an email from Iain Cochrane, Prestwick’s former CEO, indicates little has changed. In the message, sent last June to Gary Cox, head of aviation at Transport Scotland, about “recent Trump announcements”, he said: “We do not expect to see significant increases in associated corporate jet traffic until the hotel and course improvements are completed in spring 2016 when Trump will relaunch the resort with particular focus in the US.”
The emails, released under Freedom of Information legislation, also show that Cochrane and George Sorial, vice-president of the Trump Organisation, wrote separately to SNP MSP Chic Brodie, inviting him to support the relationship between the resort and the airport.
In his email to Brodie in August 2014, Cochrane said the airport was working with Trump’s team “to explore where their considerable influence may assist opportunities for mutual benefit” and suggested that he contribute to a press release announcing the tie-up.
He added: “It is important that we get as much good news and impact from the story even if at this stage the financial materiality is quite low.”
Other correspondence shows how executives at Prestwick have attended dinners as guests of Trump Turnberry, with airport officials requesting pictures of the course to “give some Turnberry flavour” to a meeting room named after Trump’s golf resort.
It also details how the airport and Trump’s firm have struck a deal for reduced accommodation rates at Trump Turnberry, despite the fact it is a 45-minute drive away.
In an email last June to Ralph Porciani, the resort’s general manager, and Gillian McNeilly, its sales director, Prestwick’s Jules Matteoni wrote: “Many thanks for taking the time to meet up yesterday to have a constructive discussion on pricing and secondly having the conviction to back up your proposal.
“As a list of hotels that we use for business, being honest, Turnberry was always last on the list based on price. Yesterday’s proposal places Turnberry in a favourable position and gives us food for thought in our placement of crews moving forward.”
Trump’s firm invited to ‘pitch’ for new airline at ailing Prestwick from The Scotsman – An investigation into how representatives from Trump Turnberry, owned by US president Donald Trump, were asked to pitch for new business at the state-owned Prestwick Airport.
Donald Trump’s flagship Scottish business was invited by Glasgow Prestwick Airport to lobby a prospective airline amid attempts to return to profit. Officials at Glasgow Prestwick Airport formed a “working party,” which included Trump Turnberry, tasked with visiting Scandinavia to bring in new business to the loss-making South Ayrshire hub.
Representatives from the golf course and hotel resort, which remains under the US president’s ultimate ownership, were asked to travel with airport and local authority staff to Denmark to “pitch” to the airline earlier this year. The Scottish Government was made aware of the collaboration.
The disclosure has sparked renewed criticism of the government over the hypocrisy surrounding Prestwick’s business relationship with Mr Trump.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been an avowed critic of the 71-year-old and his politics, stripping him of his Global Scot ambassador status after his contentious remarks about Muslims. As recently as August, she described the prospect of his coming to Britain on an official state as “unthinkable.”
In the meantime, officials at Prestwick, wholly owned by Scottish ministers, have sought out the help of Mr Trump’s most prestigious golf resort.
Patrick Harvie, co-convener of the Scottish Greens, said the billionaire’s “toxic brand” was doing “real damage” to Scotland’s reputation and said the revelation proved the current set-up, which sees Prestwick operate at arms-length from the government, was not working.
It comes amid reports ministers are preparing to sell the beleaguered airport, which is running at an operating loss of £8.7m a year, with the amount of taxpayers’ money shoring up the hub increasing by £9.6m last year to £30.9m.
Attracting new airlines is seen as a crucial step to securing a sustainable future for Prestwick and ultimately, enticing a buyer from the private sector. The airport currently counts Ryanair as its sole scheduled services operator.
Representatives from Prestwick met in April with a prospective new airline at Routes Europe, an aviation industry event held in Belfast. The company, whose identity has not been disclosed, informed Prestwick it had a spare aircraft that could be put to use in a new route.
Directors at Prestwick Aviation Holdings Limited, the airport’s holding company, discussed in June how Prestwick had “formed a working party” which included Trump Turnberry and South Ayrshire Council.
Referring to the airline as X, an extract from the meeting – passed to The Scotsman by a source familiar with Prestwick’s operations – details how the airport arranged a visit “where each stakeholder will pitch to X to support this new route. We believe this will give X the confidence required to launch direct services.”
The meeting with the airline took place in Copenhagen in July. However, Trump Turnberry said it did not attend the formal pitch, and received no payment for its work. The only new route secured by Prestwick in the past year has been Ryanair’s reinstated service to the Polish city of Rzeszow.
The source said: “There has been tentative interest in new routes at Prestwick in recent years but it has been an uphill battle to compete. There were talks with Flybe but the business case was not strong enough.”
Mr Harvie said: “Given Mr Trump’s appalling behaviour, he was rightly stripped of his Global Scot ambassador status and Scottish ministers have been at pains to distance themselves from a bigoted bully they previously cosied up to. It’s disappointing that his business is influencing a government-owned asset.
“It suggests operating at arms-length isn’t enough and I would hope Prestwick realises that Trump’s toxic brand does real damage to Scotland’s reputation.”
Since it was taken over by the government for £1 in November 2013, Prestwick’s executives have struggled to formulate a strategy to get out of the red. Its passenger total in the 12 months to September was 671,860, a fraction of its 2007/8 peak of 2.78 million. Its senior executive team has also been subject to major upheaval. Ron Smith, the chief executive officer, left last month after 15 months in charge. Mike Stewart, its business development officer, quit soon afterwards.
In the airport’s most recent annual accounts, Mr Smith wrote that a range of bodies, including Transport Scotland, VisitScotland, and local authorities, had been involved in developing “an attractive route development package.” There is, however, no mention of Trump Turnberry, the Trump Organisation or its Scottish subsidiaries.
It is not the first time Mr Trump and his companies have been expressed a keen interest in Prestwick’s passenger services since he bought Turnberry in April 2014. Seven months after the acquisition, which has yet to turn a profit for Mr Trump, he spoke out after Ryanair transferred several routes to Glasgow Airport.
He said he had a “long telephone conversation” with Michael O’Leary, its chief executive, which left him convinced the firm would play a major role in Prestwick’s future. “He needs incentives – as anyone does,” Mr Trump told The Scotsman at the time. “It’s down to the politicians to make that deal now.”
That same month, the airport and the Trump Organisation issued a joint press release announcing they had formed an “official partnership” and “strategic alliance.” The nature of the relationship was unclear until correspondence released under Freedom of Information legislation to Scotland on Sunday showed airport officials had held unminuted discussions over “potential partnership opportunities” and disclosed business development targets with Trump Turnberry.
Following the release of the documents, Prestwick contradicted the information in the press release, stressing it had no “official partnership contract in place” with Mr Trump. It added that at no time had it asked Mr Trump “to act as an advocate for the airport.”
Last night, Trump Turnberry explained it “works closely” with stakeholders such as Prestwick to bolster tourism in Ayrshire. A spokeswoman added: “For a recent pitch, Turnberry provided information on the golfing and accommodation opportunities available within the resort to the Prestwick team, to help position Ayrshire as an attractive golfing destination.”
A spokesman for the airport said: “We work closely with various organisations to share knowledge and experience to promote and grow tourism in Ayrshire. “Glasgow Prestwick Airport is an important asset for Scotland. We are focused on identifying new opportunities to bring new business to the airport and local economy in line with our strategic plan.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “In compliance with European Union state aid rules, Prestwick is being operated on a commercial basis and at arm’s length from the government. “The senior management team at the airport has been tasked with all aspects of taking the airport forward, including building on existing revenue streams.”
Trump Turnberry singled out in airport’s pitch to US military – from The Scotsman
Donald Trump’s Turnberry resort is the only hotel named by Glasgow Prestwick Airport in promotional material distributed at private meetings with US military aircrews in an attempt to win their custom, The Scotsman can reveal.
The document, prepared by the Scottish Government owned airport and handed out at ‘closed’ meetings with US Armed Forces personnel, emphasises the “five star” status of the US president’s flagship Scottish property, even noting how it has been “newly refurbished.”
Two sources familiar with the gatherings said Prestwick staff also delivered presentations in which they offered to arrange rounds of golf at Turnberry for visiting US Air Force (USAF) crews as part of their layovers.
Amid growing scrutiny on both sides of the Atlantic of US military payments and patronage of the beleaguered airport and Mr Trump’s nearby loss making resort, both Prestwick and the Scottish Government have stressed that Turnberry is one of 13 hotels used to accommodate inbound US military aircrews, and that there is “no commercial relationship” between the airport and Mr Trump’s firm.
However, the pamphlet, widely distributed at the private meetings with aircrews, raises further questions over the relationship between Mr Trump’s business and the airport, given the way it singles out Turnberry.
The document, a copy of which has been obtained by The Scotsman, is designed to promote Prestwick Aviation Services, the in-house Fixed Base Operations division which handles military stopovers at the heavily indebted hub, which was put up for sale earlier this year by Scottish ministers.
Encouraging US aircrews to “get more from your stopover,” it notes that airport staff are on hand to “offer recommendations and arrange hospitality.”
In the next section of the eight-page pamphlet, headed ‘Hotels’, it adds: “There are several downtown four star hotels in nearby Ayr, Prestwick, and Troon, all within a 15 minute drive from the airport. The newly refurbished five star Trump Turnberry Hotel is a 40 minute drive away.”
Sources with knowledge of the events – held throughout the US and designed to introduce aircrews to airports they will be using during deployments to Europe and further afield – said Mr Trump’s property was “prominently featured” throughout the proceedings.
“It’s made very clear that Turnberry is the most attractive option, especially if you’re on a longer layover,” one source explained. “It’s as much a pitch for Trump Turnberry as it is the airport.”
The same source said the pamphlet’s “praise” of Turnberry would influence US military customers to book it, and was particularly important in light of the protocol Prestwick uses to book rooms.
Scotland’s transport secretary, Michael Matheson, told Holyrood earlier this month that Prestwick staff would book Turnberry for aircrews “if customers specifically request it.”
The powerful House Oversight and Reform Committee in the US Congress is currently investigating payments to Prestwick and Turnberry by the US Defence Department.
The committee revealed last week that the Pentagon spent at least £147,000 at Mr Trump’s South Ayrshire hotel between August 2017 and July this year – the equivalent, it says, of more than 650 rooms, or “more than one room every night for more than one and a half years.”
The preliminary findings of a separate internal inquiry by the USAF show its crews made 517 stopovers at Prestwick between January 2017 and August this year, including 428 overnight stays. The frequency of the stopovers and overnight stays has increased sharply in recent years.
Addressing concerns of “serious conflicts of interest” and potential violations of the foreign emoluments clause of the US constitution surrounding the military spending at Prestwick and Turnberry, the House Oversight committee is also examining multimillion refuelling payments made to the airport by the US Defence Logistics Agency (DLA), a Virginia-based body which manages the global supply chain for the US Army, Navy, and Air Force.
As reported by The Scotsman earlier this month, a lucrative new fuel deal between the DLA and Prestwick has been postponed, with one source describing it as having been “kicked into the long grass” in light of the Congressional investigation. The DLA has stressed the two matters are unrelated. The existing DLA deal has netted Prestwick nearly £13.4m between January 2017 and June this year.
Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a progressive watchdog group based in the US capital, told The Scotsman: “The fear when President Trump broke from decades of precedent and refused to separate himself from his businesses was that parties, foreign and domestic, could and would try to influence him through his properties. That fear has become a reality.
“A cloud of doubt hangs over this presidency so that we don’t know whether any of his decisions are made in the best interest of the American people or in the best interest of his businesses and his personal finances.”
Glasgow Prestwick Airport did not respond to enquiries from The Scotsman.
US military deal ‘kicked into long grass’ over Trump investigation – from The Scotsman
A US Defence Department agency has postponed a lucrative new military aircraft refuelling deal with Glasgow Prestwick Airport amid multiple investigations and growing political scrutiny on both sides of the Atlantic into US military patronage and spending at the loss making hub and President Donald Trump’s flagship Scottish resort.
The Scotsman can reveal that the expanded EUCOM Into-Plane agreement covering the Scottish-Government owned airport and the US Defence Logistics Agency (DLA), which was due to come into force in a matter of weeks, has been put on hold until December at the earliest.
One source familiar with the deal said the deal was being “kicked into the long grass” as a result of a newly-disclosed investigation by the US House Oversight Committee.
However, the DLA said the decision was not related to or influenced by such developments, and said an extension to its existing contract – which subsequently pushed back the start of the new deal – had been ratified on 28 August.
While that predates the launch of an internal US Air Force inquiry, and details of the House Oversight’s Committee being made public, it postdates the committee’s first communications with the US Defence Department. It first wrote to the Pentagon in 21 June regarding the DLA and Prestwick deal.
The House committee is conducting a wide-ranging inquiry into the US Defence Department’s spending at Prestwick and Mr Trump’s nearby Turnberry resort over concerns of “serious conflicts of interest” and potential violations of the foreign emoluments clause of the US constitution.
It is understood one strand of the inquiry is focusing on the arrangement struck between Prestwick and the DLA, a Virginia-based body which manages the global supply chain for the US Army, Navy, and Air Force.
As The Scotsman revealed in June, the airport’s parent company, Glasgow Prestwick Airport Limited, received more than £9.02m between October 2017 and March this year for at least 644 separate aviation turbine fuel orders placed by the DLA. It has received a further £4.8m for hundreds more orders in the six months since.
With the existing deal set to expire at the end of the month, the pending extension promised to be even more gainful for the heavily indebted airport, which was put up for sale earlier this year by Scottish ministers and is reliant on the DLA for the vast majority of its revenue.
The new EUCOM deal covers not only Prestwick, but a host of European airports as far afield as Estonia, Iceland, Norway, and Poland, who supply US military aircraft with fuel.
Documentation obtained by The Scotsman shows the DLA attribute the postponement to issues with the “extensive pre-award process.”
However, sources familiar with the combat logistics support agency’s existing and future agreements with Prestwick said the controversy engulfing the airport, Trump Turnberry, and the US Defence Dept was directly to blame. .
One said the new deal has been “kicked into the long grass” in light of the increased scrutiny surrounding hub and its financial relationship the US defence apparatus.
“The DLA’s excuse for the delay is that it is slightly behind schedule in determining contract renewals. That’s nonsense,” added the source.
“They don’t want to do anything until the Congressional committee’s investigation has concluded.”
Prestwick, which has decades-long ties with the US military, remains an approved DLA site and is continuing to supply fuel to US aircraft in the meantime – it is understood the existing arrangement will simply continue until it is renewed.
But one source said the “political heat” meant it was likely US Air Mobility Command movements through Prestwick would reduce in number as they are routed through other European locations.
The monetary value of the planned new deal is unclear, but it is expected to surpass the terms of the existing arrangement, which is worth as much as £16.91m to Prestwick.
The debt owed by the airport to the Scottish Government stands at £38.4m. Its most recent accounts show its holding company’s annual losses total £7.6m.
It comes as Scotland’s transport secretary, Michael Matheson, today refused to rule out the sale of the airport to the US military.
Up to three offers for Prestwick are being assessed following the deadline for full bids last Friday. The sale is due to be completed early next month.
Mr Matheson told Holyrood’s connectivity committee that discussing potential bidders would “infringe on the integrity” of the sale process.
While the US Air Force (USAF) has launched its own review of the use of overseas airports and hotels, Politico reported today that Senator Gary Peters, the top Democrat on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, has formally requested an independent investigation into the USAF’s increased use of Prestwick and overnight stays at Mr Trump’s loss making hotel, which itself remains reliant on £107m in loans.
In a letter to the Pentagon, the Michigan senator wrote: “I am disturbed by the growing number of those in government willing to engage in questionable taxpayer funded travel to and lodging at properties owned by the president – properties from which President Trump can draw income at any time.”
A spokeswoman for Glasgow Prestwick Airport said: “The existing DLA approval has been extended by two months, until 30 November 2019. This is a European wide extension and not specific to the Glasgow Prestwick Airport location.”
The DLA said it was inaccurate to describe the changed dates regarding the deal as a “delay,”
It said there were more than 60 locations across Europe that required site inspections, “extensive negotiations,” and technical evaluations of various proposals in order to “eventually determine which offeror will receive a contract award for a particular location.”
The DLA energy technical and contracting teams, it added, have a “limited number” of members who are working simultaneously on multiple expansive programmes with “unique challenges and demands.”
Asked if the decision was influenced by or related to the Congressional inquiry surrounding Prestwick and Mr Trump, a spokesman for the DLA said: “No. This decision was made in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations.”
He said the DLA anticipated awarding a long-term contract to Prestwick by the end of November, adding: “As long as the US Department of Defence customer has a requirement at that location then the DLA Energy contracting office will continue to support the mission.”
Prestwick edits website to remove Trump Turnberry mention – from The Scotsman
Glasgow Prestwick Airport has edited its website to remove a mention of Donald Trump’s Turnberry resort in a section aimed at foreign military customers using the hub.
The Scottish Government owned airport modified a webpage promoting its in-house fixed base operations to inbound aircrews and advising them of nearby hotels and attractions.
The US president’s resort was the only hotel named, despite the fact it is one of 13 used by Prestwick staff to book accommodation for US aircrews. Turnberry is booked if aircrews specifically request it, Scotland’s transport secretary, Michael Matheson, confirmed earlier this month.
While the webpage, promoting hospitality offerings to military customers, named Turnberry last week, the reference had been removed as of this evening.
As revealed last Wednesday by The Scotsman, Turnberry is also the only hotel named in promotional literature distributed by Prestwick staff at closed door meetings with US military personnel.
A pamphlet handed out at the meetings notes that the loss making hotel and golf course enjoys a “five star” status and has been “newly refurbished.”
The airport has not responded to The Scotsman’s enquiries about the prominence given to Mr Trump’s resort in the materials.
US military patronage and payments at Turnbrrry and Prestwick are the subject of an ongoing Congressional investigation.
The House Oversight and Reform Committee, which has been scrutinising the arrangements since June, has already revealed the Pentagon spent at least £147,000 at Turnberry between August 2017 and July this year, the equivalent, it says, of more than 650 rooms, or “more than one room every night for more than one and a half years.”
Nicola Sturgeon accused of ‘ignoring’ Prestwick US military scandal – from The Scotsman
Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of ignoring the “growing scandal” of the state-owned Glasgow Prestwick Airport’s financial relationship with the US military, amid allegations it is waiving service fees for US Armed Forces aircraft at a cost to taxpayers in excess of £1m.
Patrick Harvie MSP, co-leader of the Scottish Greens, said the struggling airport, which is reliant on loans totalling £38.4m from Scottish ministers, was effectively being used as a “cut price petrol station” for the US Air Force (USAF).
Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, he said ministers have been aware for more than a year of the allegations surrounding Prestwick, and called on Ms Sturgeon to “accept her responsibility to ensure that our public assets are not being used to support the military operations of a dangerous far right regime,” a reference to the administration of US president Donald Trump.
It comes after an investigation by The Scotsman detailed the series allegations made by multiple sources with knowledge of the loss making airport’s increasing reliance on US military business. Justice minister Humza Yousaf was alerted to the allegations last year while serving as transport minister, correspondence obtained by this newspaper shows.
The airport has repeatedly refused to respond to enquiries by The Scotsman concerning the alleged fee waivers for several hundred US aircraft making stopovers and layovers in recent years..
It comes as the House Oversight and Reform Committee in the US Congress is scrutinising US Defence Department payments both to Prestwick and nearby Trump Turnberry.
Despite the growing scrutiny on both sides of the Atlantic, it is understood a new lucrative deal which sees Prestwick provide aviation fuel for US military aircraft is expected to be ratified later this year. Under the the terms of the existing deal, the airport has received nearly £14m from the US Defence Logistics Agency, a Virginia-based combat logistics agency of the US Defence Department.
Mr Harvie told the Holyrood chamber: “This is a growing scandal, there is already a US Congress inquiry into this relationship.”
However, Ms Sturgeon referred to comments made to Holyrood earlier in the week by transport secretary, Michael Matheson, and stressed that the airport was run commercially and independently from the Scottish Government.
She said: “That’s not something that’s done for convenience. It’s essential that there is that arms-length relationship in order that we are compliant with state aid rules.
“If we were to interfere in the running of Prestwick, we would put in jeopardy the future operation of the airport.
“For those who want to see the airport continue, for those who want to see it have a future, for those who want to see the jobs that are dependent on it continue, I think that is the right and responsible thing to do.”
Mr Harvie pointed to the governance structure of Prestwick’s holding company, which sees two of Ms Sturgeon’s officials sit on the board.
“That’s supposed to provide a line of democratic accountability for the issue, so that we’re not reliant on investigative journalists uncovering the facts of what’s going on,” he pointed out.
He asked Ms Sturgeon if there was “any other business plan” for Prestwick other than providing a “bargain service” for Mr Trump’s military which saw them arrange transfers for personnel to his nearby Turnberry resort..
She replied that the airport’s sources of revenue were “laid out” in its published annual accounts. However, the accounts in question only make one reference to the Defence Logistics Agency deal, and do not specify how much revenue it generates for Prestwick.
She added: “Beyond that, in terms of the future for Prestwick, as we have always said, we want to return Prestwick to the private sector as soon as we are able to do so.
“The senior management team at the airport continue to engage with potential buyers and investors, and we will continue to take the action that we require to take to ensure that the airport has a future, because I think that’s what’s important for the economy in that part of Ayrshire and the many jobs that depend on Prestwick having a future.”
Mr Harvie also called on the chamber to unite in solidarity with Kurdish people “betrayed and abandoned” by the US and now enduring a series of assault by Turkish military forces.
Ms Sturgeon said that she and the government were “deeply concerned” by and “strongly opposed” to Turkey’s unilateral military action in northern Syria.
She added she was also “extremely concerned” by Donald Trump’[s decision to withdraw support and leave Kurdish allies at Turkey’s “mercy,” explaining: “I think that is particularly reprehensible given the sacrifices Kurds have made in helping to defeat ISIS, so I hope there is a very strong response from the international community.”
Scottish Government ‘not hiding’ from Prestwick Airport allegations – from The Scotsman
Transport secretary Michael Matheson has stressed the Scottish Government is “not hiding behind anything” amid growing scrutiny of Glasgow Prestwick Airport’s financial dealings with the US military.
The House Oversight and Reform Committee in the US Congress is currently investigating US Defence Department payments and patronage at the state-owned airport and nearby Trump Turnberry, owned by US president Donald Trump.
As reported last week by The Scotsman, multiple senior sources familiar with the airport’s business allege it is waiving service fees for inbound US Armed Forces aircraft at a cost to taxpayers of “seven figures” in order to bolster traffic and safeguard its commercial relationship with the US Defence Department.
Humza Yousaf, the justice minister, was warned last year about the allegations surrounding the South Ayrshire airport, which has received loans totalling £38.4m from Scottish ministers and was put up for sale earlier this year.
Asked at Holyrood yesterday by Mike Rumbles, the Scottish Liberal Democrats MSP, to disclose the amount of the alleged waivers, Mr Matheson declined to address the question and said that the loss making airport was run at arms length from the government on a commercial basis. He said Prestwick decided on “specific commercial deals” without any involvement from ministers.
Mr Rumbles said it “isn’t good enough for the government to hide behind” the arms-length arrangement or reasons of commercial confidentiality, and asked when the cabinet secretary was made aware of the waiver allegations.
Mr Matheson did not address the timing issue, and said that Mr Rumble’s suggestion the government was hiding behind “state aid rules” was “frankly nonsense.”
He added: “In order to make sure that we comply with state aid regulations and law in this area, ministers and government can not be involved in the commercial decisions that are made by Prestwick.”
Patrick Harvie MSP, co-leader of the Scottish Greens said he found the government’s “nothing to see here attitude rather disturbing” and asked if it was not offensive for a Scottish publicly owned asset “to be effectively subsidising the military operations of a dangerous far right regime.”
Mr Matheson replied: “It doesn’t provide any subsidy. It operates on a commercial basis.”
The airport has a lucrative refuelling deal with the US Defence Logistics Agency, a Virginia-based body which forms part of the US Defence Department. It has generated revenue of nearly £13.4m for Prestwick between January 2017 and June this year.
The preliminary findings of an internal inquiry by the US Air Force show a significant upsurge in US military flights at the troubled hub. Its crews made 517 stopovers at Prestwick between January 2017 and August this year, including 428 overnight stays, according to the inquiry.
Separately, the House committee has received records from the Pentagon showing it has spent at least £147,000 at Mr Trump’s South Ayrshire hotel between August 2017 and July this year – the equivalent, it says, of more than 650 rooms, or “more than one room every night for more than one and a half years.”
Conflict of interest probe into Trump resort and Prestwick – from Scotland on Sunday
A powerful committee in the US Congress has launched an inquiry into spending by the US defence department at the Scottish Government-owned Prestwick Airport amid concerns of “serious conflicts of interest” and potential violations of military custom at the transport hub and president Donald Trump’s nearby Turnberry resort.
The House oversight and reform committee said US military spending at the Ayrshire airport had “increased substantially” since Trump came to office, and pointed out the airport was “integral” to Turnberry’s financial success.
It comes after The Scotsman detailed how Prestwick’s parent company had received more than £9.02m for 644 orders to refuel US Armed Forces aircraft between October 2017 and March 2019.
Scotland on Sunday can reveal that in the six months since, further refuelling orders have netted Prestwick another £4.8m. The deal with the US Defence Logistics Agency, which manages the supply chain for the US armed forces, is by far the airport’s biggest revenue stream.
Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie has accused the Scottish Government of “propping up Donald Trump’s militaristic agenda” given the airport’s extensive US military custom.
However, the spending has also raised questions over whether Trump’s golf resort is benefiting from the US military activity in the area.
It emerged yesterday that a crew who stopped over at Prestwick on a military plane in April en route to Kuwait stayed at Trump’s resort.
A report on the Politico website quoted a US Air Force official who said the decision to refuel at Prestwick and stay at Turnberry was unusual.
The US committee, which can investigate federal government business, has written to the US defence department, demanding documents and spending records related to Prestwick, including “communications related to defence department flights routed through Prestwick”.
It calls on the Pentagon to disclose all correspondence between the US defence department and Trump’s firms in Scotland.
Prestwick was put up for sale earlier this year by Scottish ministers, with the bidding period closing on Friday.