A row broke out among councillors over the future of the aviation industry in Prestwick  as Scotland bids to become carbon neutral.

Councillor Hugh Hunter accused politicians Brian McGinley and Ian Cochrane of saying that non-environmentally friendly jobs locally should not be supported.

The dispute erupted as South Ayrshire Council signed off a climate change paper  at a fulll council meeting earlier this month. The paper vowed to achieve a 75 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030.

Councillor Cochrane said the council’s  green policy has no bearing on external firms or relates to the local economy. 

"It’s a plain fact many airline companies were failing long before the  Covid lockdown as the economy was heading to recession and people did not have the disposable income to spend on foreign travel. Covid accelerated that inevitable outcome. These industries failed because aircraft were not flying, not because they are high carbon emitters.”

Councillor Cochrane denied saying jobs in polluting industries should not be supported.

He said: “I did not make that statement, but do recognise the need for a green recovery and support the transition from high carbon to sustainable green industries.”

Reporters are not allowed access to South Ayrshire Council meetings online at present so the Post was unable to witness what politicians said. 

Speaking after the meeting Councillor Hugh Hunter said: “At the council meeting the SNP- led administration passed its climate change strategy and rejected a Conservative amendment that added a condition that the strategy should not impede or compromise the pace of economic recovery from Covid-19 in South Ayrshire.

“When it was pointed out that without this caveat then many jobs in local industries that might be perceived to be high carbon producing may be lost, the SNP councillor for Prestwick and the Labour Group Leader said that if jobs were lost then too bad as they were jobs that should not be supported. They would be replaced by jobs in green industries."

Prestwick Airport

He added:“I am sure that will be of great comfort to those working at Prestwick Airport, Prestwick Aerospace Campus and the National Air Traffic Control Centre together with those employed in their supply chains.”

Local Labour leader Brian McGinley said Councillor Hunter was “putting words into other elected members mouth.”

Councillor Brian McGinley

The Ayr East politician said: “ First, I and the council are committed to reducing emissions and greenhouse gases by setting a robust carbon budget, investing in alternative green infrastructure and promoting a green economic recovery that ensures a low carbon future.

“Secondly, I am very clear that we cannot go back to the type of pre pandemic economy that has caused this emergency. Councillor Hunter however, seems to wish to protect all existing jobs regardless of the damage to the environment, that pay people poverty wages and will hold back progress in getting people trained and into jobs for the future.

“Finally, if the pandemic has taught us anything then it is that we cannot go back to the old ways of an economy that is damaging, inherently unequal, does not meet the needs of all citizens, causing division and fuelling unfairness.”

The climate change policy was signed off by politicians. 

Councillors approved asking officials to bring forward proposals for £1.8 million electric charging points in the area and adopt a plan to make council buildings greener.

They also agreed that the “council’s recovery from COVID-19 should be strategically focused on a green recovery to tackle the climate emergency and deliver a low carbon future.”