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Last Updated: Saturday, 12 August 2006, 23:08 GMT 00:08 UK
SNP in demands over arms flights
Plane at Prestwick
Prestwick Airport has been used by US cargo planes
The leader of the Scottish National Party wants a "categorical assurance" that Prestwick Airport will not be used again by arms-carrying US aircraft.

Alex Salmond said he had "serious concerns" about airport security in light of an alleged terrorist plot to blow up UK aeroplanes in mid-flight.

The Banff and Buchan MP has written a letter to Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott expressing his views.

Planes carrying US bombs to Israel had been using Prestwick.

Mr Salmond believes that security at the Ayrshire airport has been limited, even compared with other civilian airports.

Anti-war protesters appeared in court last Tuesday accused of illegally entering Prestwick Airport.

'Substantial publicity'

Some of the 17 people, who pleaded not guilty, were also accused of illegally boarding and damaging a US military aircraft.

Mr Salmond's letter to Mr Prescott, who is in charge while Prime Minister Tony Blair is on holiday, says: "We now know that the police and security services had been investigating, over a matter of months, an alleged bombing plot affecting flights from UK airports, a plot thankfully foiled by the police.

Alex Salmond
Alex Salmond has expressed concern over security
"We also know that security at Prestwick is limited even in comparison with other civilian airports and that the use of the airport for refuelling would inevitably attract substantial publicity.

"And, yet despite the above, these flights were sanctioned for some days before their transfer to more suitable military bases.

"It does seem quite extraordinary and highly irresponsible that Prestwick should be placed in the front line of publicity in this matter with no apparent preparations of any kind to deal with the security implications."

His letter ended with a demand for a "categorical assurance" that Prestwick, or any other civilian airport in Scotland, would not be used for such a purpose again "in light of the current circumstances".

It was reported by the BBC at the beginning of August that US flights carrying bombs to Israel would no longer use any civilian airports in the UK.

It has emerged that in future only military airfields will be used.

It is understood that the decision was reached after protests at Prestwick Airport and discussions between various government departments, led by the Foreign Office.

US cargo planes travelling from Texas to Tel Aviv at the end of July, which had been due to refuel at Prestwick, were diverted to RAF Mildenhall, Suffolk.


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