NEWS of Ryanair's Prestwick expansion plans should "silence the critics" of the airport, the area's MSP has insisted.

The budget airline recently announced plans to recruit 200 new employees at its Prestwick maintenance hub - while two new routes will launch in April giving Ayrshire direct air links with Marseille and Pisa.

The airport itself is also recruiting for female ground security operatives and passenger service agents.

The facility, which was bought by the Scottish Government in 2013 for £1, recorded a profit for the year to March 31, 2022 and is expected to maintain that for 2022-23.

However, MSPs were told earlier this year that the nationalised facility is expecting millions of pounds in public sector support to continue.

Audit Scotland recently said that the Scottish Government's financial support for the airport had cost taxpayers more than £31 million.

Prestwick supports around 4,500 jobs in the airport and the nearby aerospace cluster. It also contributes around £61.6m annually to the Scottish economy.

Ryanair has around 36 flights per day from Prestwick in the peak of summer, with passenger numbers increasing last year from 47,000 until March 31, 2021 to 118,000 until March 31, 2022.

Sales of military fuel accounted for £13m of its £16m year-on-year rise in revenue, which reached £35m.

Ayr constituency MSP Siobhian Brown said: “I welcome the announcement about new jobs and new flight routes coming to Prestwick.

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"The airport is vital to the Ayrshire and wider Scottish economy and I’m delighted the travel hub is going from strength to strength.

“The airport has proven, over the past three years, what a huge success it can be. 

"It’s now making a profit and was one of the few airports in the world to do so during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"That’s down to the hard work of everyone there and in the surrounding aerospace cluster.

"I am proud of them all and I tabled a Scottish Government motion congratulating the airport, the staff and their success at the end of last year.

“In addition to passengers, Prestwick Airport is delivering world class cargo facilities.

"It also plays an integral part of the £80m Ayrshire Growth Deal investment making the area a global leader in the aerospace industry.

"The Scottish Government continue to support that area, including the recent investment of £60m for Mangata, which is creating more jobs and opportunities for the people of Ayrshire. 

“The airport has come under fire from opposition politicians but this latest investment in skilled jobs and flight routes should be enough to silence the critics. 

"There is a long road ahead for the business, but the results are improving year on year and it’s time to stop using it as a political football.

“I personally believe that Prestwick airport should return to the private sector, but that buyer needs to have a solid business plan in place and a means to fund investment.”