Voting for Heathrow expansion without guarantees for Scottish airports would have been a dereliction of duty, Drew Hendry said last night.
The Inverness MP has come under fire for his party’s abstention from the controversial third runway vote on Monday night, which ended up being passed by a substantial majority of MPs.
The decision has been queried, particularly when the SNP Scottish Government signed a memorandum of understanding with Heathrow supporting the move in 2016 and nearly every Scottish airport and chamber of commerce has backed expansion.
Mr Hendry, chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on regional airports, has previously spoken in support of the plans but said he feared the UK Government would not deliver on its promises.
“The benefits could be substantial and I support that case,” he said. “But those benefits are only real if they are able to be delivered.
“The deal offered didn’t give any real protections to regional airports – nothing at all for Dundee and it puts Inverness at risk.
“When you have got the BA boss saying slot charges are likely to double, my best bet is we will suffer more in the north.
“It would be a dereliction of duty if I allowed this situation to go ahead when the slot prices could double and airlines shift to the more lucrative routes.”
Mr Hendry said he had been stung by ministerial U-turns over pledges to allow people to cancel mobile phone contracts if they had poor coverage back in 2015 and also pointed to the recent Brexit ministerial ‘backsliding’ by Scottish Secretary David Mundell over clause 11 of the EU Withdrawal Bill.
Mr Hendry said Transport Secretary Chris Grayling’s record in government meant MPs could not trust him to deliver.
“I have been stung before myself,” he said.
“Chris Grayling failed to give any guarantees, which he had previously said he could deliver.
“He has failed to deliver time and time again, including on Northern Rail, and you only have to look at what this Tory government did on clause 11.”
A Highlands and Islands Airports (HIAL) spokesman said he welcomed the vote in favour of expansion but would still be pressing for guarantees on slots.
“We believe the third runway will play a key part in securing long-term aviation connectivity for the UK regions, including the HIAL network of airports,” he said.
“Our focus now is to work with the Government and to continue to press for guaranteed slots at Heathrow and ensure that airport expansion benefits the entire country.”