Boris Johnson has been challenged to travel to Inverness for talks with local airport chiefs about how a third Heathrow runway could lead the Highlands to the “Holy Grail”.
The foreign secretary was urged to make the trip last night after he left airport bosses “bitterly disappointed” by claiming the proposed Heathrow expansion was a “fantasy” project and should be dropped.
Business leaders in the north view a third runway at London’s biggest airport as essential to the continued economic growth in the Highlands.
Inglis Lyon, managing director at Highlands and Islands Airports, said he hoped it could even pave the way for two flights a day from Inverness to the UK’s hub airport.
In May, British Airways reintroduced scheduled flights between Heathrow and Inverness for the first time in almost two decades.
Mr Lyon said the service was already “exceeding their expectations and ours”, and would hope to see a second introduced.
“These new links are generating significant movements into and out of the Highlands and islands that weren’t there before,” he said.
If a third runway was built, he said: “We can then start talking to the likes of BA saying ‘we want a double run’. That’s the holy grail for us.
“We would get the business trips for the day and the second thing is that we would catch another wave of flights coming into the UK.”
Prime Minister Theresa May is currently considering whether to proceed with a third runway at Heathrow, or approve a rival development at Gatwick instead.
Mr Johnson, who campaigned against Heathrow expansion as London mayor, spoke out against the move this week, saying: “The massive costs and enormous risks mean it’s undeliverable, and the taxpayer will be saddled with the bill for failure.
“We need to consign this Heathrow fantasy to the dustbin.”
Mr Lyon issued the invitation to Mr Johnson to travel north in a letter to his cabinet colleague, Scottish Secretary David Mundell”
He said: “We would love to see him up here to sit him down with some business leaders from the region and make him aware of what is happening here.
“Very often politicians down there don’t understand the importance of plans to the regions.”