LOSS-MAKING Prestwick Airport would be forced to shut if it was asked to repay the tens of millions of taxpayers’ cash it has received in the last four years, bosses have admitted.

Around £40 million of public money has been pumped into the South Ayrshire hub since it was bought by the Scottish Government for £1 in 2013.

But since then, it has made losses of £24m and has experienced little growth in the number of people using the airport, with bosses suggesting passenger flights could even be dropped.

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Scottish Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Mike Rumbles has now raised fears taxpayers will never get their money back, adding: "This is not a profitable operating company that should be invested in.”

He said the Scottish Government’s loan was “repayable on demand”, and asked Prestwick bosses what would happen if ministers demanded the cash was returned.

Replying during Holyrood’s rural economy and connectivity committee, the airport’s finance director Ian Forgie admitted it would be “wound up”.

However, Prestwick’s chairman Andrew Miller suggested the airport had valuable assets in the form of the land it sits on, and had been approached by potential buyers – but did not want to sell it for housing.

He told MSPs: “We have had approaches from third parties about the business, who have looked at the business in a different way, and have in the past been willing to offer packages to us in terms of acquisition, whole or a part.

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“These discussions haven’t concluded in a way that we wanted them to be concluded. But one of the things that did come out is a lot of companies who are in our area, who operate in our area, have shown interest around the assets.”

Scottish Tory MSP John Scott, who represents Ayr, also said the underlying value of the land is “significantly more than the liabilities incurred thus far”.

He said it was his understanding that the Scottish Government would not lend the airport money beyond this value.

He added: “In the worst case scenario, it has huge value for building, located around Prestwick Airport and between Troon and Ayr.

“And that is the bottom line as far as the Scottish Government is concerned, as I understand it.

“If the business went belly-up, then the Government would still get its money back.”

READ MORE: Loss-making Prestwick Airport touting for business at military fairs across the US in a bid to win contracts

Bosses at Prestwick said they were reviewing the airport's operations to decide on a way forward, and confirmed it currently did not make any profit from passenger flights.

Chief executive Stewart Adams said an economic review of its services is being carried out, adding: "It's clear that the passenger side of the business does not make money.

"Passenger numbers certainly need to increase but it is very difficult at the moment."

Prestwick is hoping to become one of the UK and Europe's first spaceports, bringing thousands of additional jobs and extra investment.

It is also among 10 sites across Scotland currently in the running to help build the planned third runway at Heathrow.