Scottish transport secretary Michael Matheson has announced that a preferred bidder has been chosen to buy Prestwick airport.

The Scottish government took over the airport in 2013 when its previous owner Infratil failed to find a commercial buyer and it was threatened with closure.

A previous attempt to sell it fell through in November when the bidder pulled out.

The BBC reports that the new preferred bidder has not named but is understood to be a European investor in transport infrastructure.

Opposition parties have said that any deal must include repayment of more than £43 million to the Scottish government, but BBC Scotland said such a repayment was not expected.

Matheson said: “Significant progress has been made and I have agreed the selection of a preferred bidder.

“This allows the process to move to the next stage and potentially an early divestment of our shareholding.”

Colin Smyth, Scottish Labour’s transport spokesman, said: “It is vital that any deal to sell Prestwick Airport must include a clear commitment from the buyer to retain and grow jobs at the airport.

“Any deal should also have a clear plan showing how the taxpayer will get back the tens of millions of pounds loaned to the airport from the public purse.”