The Scottish Government has decided to sell Glasgow Prestwick Airport and will place an advertisement in the Official Journal of the European Union, inviting expressions of interest in the business.

In November 2013, the government took ownership of the airport for £1 after heavy losses threatened closure of the Prestwick Airport, which was considered a strategic economic asset, particularly for Ayrshire.

The public ownership of the airport has protected jobs directly and indirectly linked to the airport, in addition to safeguarding a strategic asset.

The government said that the preferred bidder will be required to give a commitment to maintain aviation operations and maximise the employment potential associated with the business. It will also have significant investment capabilities, be capable of operating and managing an airport, and have the ability to develop aviation services.

Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity Michael Matheson said: “Since the Scottish Government bought Glasgow Prestwick Airport in 2013, we have been clear that it is our intention to return the business to the private sector when the time is right.

“The senior management team at the airport has continued to engage with potential buyers and investors to discuss proposals for developing the business under new ownership.

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“Good progress continues to be made by the airport to increase revenue, deliver operating efficiencies and pursue exciting opportunities for the future, including Spaceport.”

Matheson said that any expressions of interest would be considered carefully before taking any decision on divesting the government’s shareholding in the airport or any part of the business.

Transport Scotland said that potential buyers have not yet been identified.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “There have been a number of businesses and individuals interested in buying the airport since 2013.

“In light of that, we want to test the market and this process allows potential buyers to submit a detailed proposal.”

The Ayrshire airport is said to have taken on £40m of Scottish Government loans, which will need to be paid back.

Even though Ryanair is Prestwick’s only passenger airline, the airport’s other income is from cargo and military flights, and other operations.