ABERDEEN Airport bosses say the expansion plans which have angered environmental campaigners are designed to create “a truly international gateway for north-east Scotland”.
Airport owner BAA is investing £10million in an initial runway extension of 328 yards and an expanded international arrivals hall.
The first phase of the programme, which is already under way, involves a bigger customs and immigration hall and improved baggage reclaim facilities.
Over the next decade, the company intends to spend £60million on extending the runway farther still to allow bigger, more modern aircraft to fly from Aberdeen to destinations across the Mediterranean, North Africa and North America, as well as building a bigger, better-equipped terminal and new parking stands for aircraft.
BAA predicts passenger numbers at Aberdeen will rise to 5.9million by 2030, and says the expansion will create more than 1,200 jobs at the airport and many more across Scotland.
In 2002, a study by the Fraser of Allander Institute found that Aberdeen Airport contributed more than £482million a year to the Scottish economy and supported more than 9,000 jobs, including 2,800 people employed directly at the airport.
BAA’s masterplan for Aberdeen was widely praised by business and tourism leaders.
Politicians condemned the demonstration against extending the runway.
Aberdeen North Labour MP Frank Doran said he believed in the right to protest, “but when that interferes with people’s business it becomes problematic”.
Mr Doran congratulated police for bringing the incident to a speedy conclusion.
Lady Saltoun of Abernethy said: “If they stopped aircraft landing with insufficient fuel to fly elsewhere it could be very dangerous.”
Aberdeen South Labour MP Anne Begg said Aberdeen Airport “is the hub of helicopter activity in the North Sea, without which the economy of the north-east and the country would collapse”.
West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine Liberal Democrat MP Sir Robert Smith added: “There is no justification for causing major disruption to vital economic links.”