Scots chased Ryanair contract

THE Scottish Government “moved heaven and earth” to win a €9 million investment from Ryanair, the airline claimed, contrasting it to the Irish Government, which, it said, acted with “inaction and indifference”.

Chief executive Michael O’Leary flew into Scotland on his private jet last Wednesday to make the announcement that it would build its hangar at Prestwick Airport and create 200 jobs.

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond also attended the announcement and said Ryanair was making a “substantial contribution to Scotland’s economy”.

Scotland was said to have seen a “double opportunity” when its low-cost airline Flyglobespan was grounded in December while, at the same time, Ryanair was looking for an airport in Europe to locate a hanger to maintain its 230 aircraft.

Ryanair moved in to fill the no-frills market, adding routes in and out of Edinburgh.

Mr O’Leary put the decision to build the hangar in Prestwick down to the “ongoing partnership with the Scottish Government and Scottish Enterprise, who have repeatedly supported our vision for many more low fare flights to and from Scotland”.

Prestwick Airport already has a Ryanair aircraft maintenance facility, employing around 180 people since 2004. The Scottish government is supporting the project announced last week through Scottish Enterprise, with around €1.5m in grant aid.

“Prestwick have given us the ground, we are building the hangar, we will own the hangar, we won’t be screwed by some airport intermediary,” said Mr O’Leary.

The area in West Scotland, which used to have a strong whisky industry, has been an unemployment black spot in recent years, but had an available labour pool with aviation and engineering skills required by Ryanair.

The airport claimed to have fought off competition from four other airports, although these have not been identified.

Last August, Mr O’Leary warned Employment Minister Mary Coughlan that if the Government did not offer them a hangar in Dublin Airport then “your Government will lose these jobs and this investment to other lower cost EU countries who are bending over backwards to encourage Ryanair to invest in their economies, while sadly in Ireland we are blocked”.

More in this section