Political fight over Heathrow brewing for the SNP in Scotland
With the final vote on a 3rd Heathrow runway expected within about 2 weeks, the political fight is intensifying, as the SNP have their conference on 8th and 9th June. It is important for the Heathrow vote, as the SNP (with 35 MPs) hold a potentially critical role – if they were to vote against the runway, it might be stopped – or only won by a tiny margin. Heathrow continues to throw money and the weight of its corporate lobbying at the SNP, schmoozing them at the conference, with an invitation-only event – as it has done at the other political conferences, trying to buy support and persuade MPs. By contrast with the hospitality and honey-tongued words by Heathrow in the conference, 3 residents who would lose their homes if the expansion goes ahead, drove for 13 hours overnight from Harmondsworth – to focus on engaging with SNP party members and politicians going into the conference. They spoke to several hundred, putting the case that the SNP should not be led astray by the promises of Heathrow – and many expressed concern at the party’s position of support for the runway, due to environmental concerns and a preference to see the development of further direct air links from Scottish airports, and a dedicated air freight hub in Scotland.
Political fight over Heathrow brewing in Scotland
9.6.2018 (No 3rd Runway Coalition)
With the final vote on Heathrow expansion coming up in the UK Parliament later this month, the political fight over whether to expand the London airport is intensifying, as the SNP gather for their conference in Aberdeen this weekend (1).
Despite the conference being 400 miles from Westminster, the potentially critical role of the SNP in determining the final decision is being felt both inside and outside Aberdeen’s Exhibition and Conference Centre.
Heathrow Airport Limited continue to throw money and the weight of its corporate lobbying schmoozing at Scotland’s governing party, with its presence at the conference not too dissimilar to the exclusivity surrounding its presence at all previous conference over the past few years (2).
The campaign to secure support for the parliamentary vote is going down to the wire, with Heathrow holding a reception on Friday evening targeted specifically at lobbying SNP politicians (3).
By contrast three residents who would lose their homes if the expansion goes ahead, drove for thirteen hours overnight from Harmondsworth – the village near Heathrow that would be demolished is expansion goes ahead – to Aberdeen to focus on engaging with SNP party members and politicians going into the conference, putting the case that the SNP should not be led astray by the promises of Heathrow Airport and the Tory Government in Westminster. One resident wore a huge paper-mache plane on his back bearing the message “No 3rd Runway” (4).
Speaking to hundreds of party members, the majority of whom expressed concern at the party’s position to support the third runway proposal, primarily citing environmental concerns and a preference to see the development of further direct air links from Scottish airports, and a dedicated air freight hub in Scotland.
Lots of questions were being asked by SNP members and pro-independence supporters as to why the party were supporting the creation of a monopoly of UK aviation at a London airport. A recent report by the New Economics Foundation found that expansion at Heathrow could constrain growth at airports around the UK in the future (5). Further, in order to meet climate change targets, no new runway capacity could be built in the UK until after 2050 and there would have to be an emissions cut, possibly from other sectors of the economy, such is the impact of Heathrow expansion, in order not to breach these targets (6).
Rob Barnstone, Coordinator of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, said:
“Heathrow expansion is far from a foregone conclusion even at this late stage. There is evidence that a decision will go right down to the wire.
“As the report by the New Economics Foundation demonstrates, the supposed economic benefits for Scotland as a result of Heathrow expansion are not fixed and in fact are constantly being revised down. The economic argument in favour of expansion is still being challenged, particularly since there has been no assessment of the economic impact this project might have since Brexit.”
Neil Keveren, Harmondsworth resident who attended the Conference and who faces losing his home if expansion goes ahead, said:
“Coming up to Aberdeen and speaking to delegates has really helped to reinforce that this really isn’t just a London issue and even this far away people feel just as strongly about the impacts on individuals, communities and the environment.
“Heathrow’s exclusive invitation-only, reception shows that is where the money is but it certainly seemed that a clear majority of SNP members do not like the David versus Goliath approach that Heathrow are taking, their apparent lack of willingness to engage with ordinary members, and the disparity between the influence between communities and corporate power.”
- Photo of ‘Invitation only’ event from Conference brochure
- Photo of Campaigners from London who drove up SNP Conference attached.
- http://neweconomics.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/NEF-Flying-Low.pdf p.17
For more information, or for copies of any images attached, contact: Rob Barnstone, 07806 947050 or Robert.firstname.lastname@example.org
The UK government does not have a working majority. See the numbers of MPs at
The Tories have to depend on the 10 Northern Irish DUP MPs to vote with them. So 35 SNP MPs could be a crucial number.
SNP “promised” 16,000 new jobs if it backs 3rd runway – but that figure is crazily inflated – as Heathrow & DfT well know
The Conservative government may need the SNP’s support if some of its MPs rebel against the new Heathrow runway – which is likely. The SNP will demand guaranteed extra slots for Scottish flights into London in return for the party’s support for the 3rd runway. Ian Blackford, the head of the SNP’s parliamentary group in London, said the party had not taken a decision on runway yet – and would only do so if Scotland stood to benefit. Their backing may not be guaranteed, though that had been assumed – particularly after Keith Brown, Scotland’s infrastructure secretary, believed there might be 16,000 Scottish jobs, created by the project. That figure of 16,000 jobs is what Heathrow has, for several years, been peddling. Along with similarly inflated claims for all the regions. The number was derived by a consultancy called Quod, in a flimsy little 4 page paper, with no methodology, no date, no author etc. It is based on the assumption that Heathrow would provide an economic benefit (NPV) to the UK, over 60 years, of £147 billion. That number is now known to actually be about £3.3 billion, at best (if not a negative number). The SNP would be very ill-advised to believe Scotland will benefit; in reality its airports would be damaged by allowing the runway. Tragic if they vote in favour of it, because they have not checked out the facts properly.
SNP misled by Heathrow inflated claims of number of jobs for Scotland due to a 3rd runway
The SNP decided to give its backing to a Heathrow runway, rather than one at Gatwick – having been led to believe that the only choice on offer was between these two. They were led, by Heathrow PR, to believe there would be greater benefits for Scotland. The SNP hoped to get exports from Scotland (salmon and razor clams) shipped through Heathrow. The Airports Commission came up with a figure of economic benefit from a Heathrow runway of UP TO £147 billion to all the UK over 60 years. Heathrow got a consultancy called Quod to work out the number of jobs. They came up with the figure of 16,100 jobs for Scotland (over 60 years) from the runway. The DfT has now downgraded the £147 billion figure, as it included various speculative elements, and double counted benefits. The new figure (also still far higher than the reality) from the DfT is UP TO £61 billion for the UK over 60 years. That, pro rata, would mean up to about 9,300 jobs for Scotland – not 16,100. It is unfortunate that the SNP were misinformed, as were other MPs, Chambers of Commerce etc across the regions. Heathrow also pledged benefits for Scotland such as using its steel for construction, and using Prestwick as a base. The Scottish Green party see the SNP backing of a Heathrow runway as a betrayal of those badly affected by it, and of Scotland’s climate commitments.