Airport company BAA will have to sell one of its Scottish airports before it sells Stansted, competition chiefs ruled today.
Earlier this year, the Competition Commission (CC) ruled that Stansted Airport in Essex would be sold first, followed by either Edinburgh or Glasgow.
The sales had been ordered following a lengthy investigation by the CC into whether BAA's ownership of UK airports was anti-competitive.
But in the latest of a series of legal challenges, BAA has appealed against the Stansted sale.
This led to the CC saying today that the disposal of one of the Scottish airports would be brought forward, with the sale process expected to begin shortly.
Laura Carstensen, chairman of the CC's BAA remedies implementation group, said: "We feel this is the best approach in view of the further delay caused to the Stansted sale by this second appeal.
"It is frustrating that we cannot proceed with the Stansted disposal until this new challenge from BAA has been dealt with but in the meantime we will press ahead with the Scottish sale and, as a result, passengers and airlines in Scotland will enjoy the benefits of greater competition even sooner than they would have done otherwise."
BAA chief executive Colin Matthews said the company was pleased with the latest CC decision.
He went on: "BAA has already sold Gatwick and will now sell either Edinburgh or Glasgow airport. Both Edinburgh and Glasgow are great airports with great futures and we will be sorry to see one of them leave BAA.
"We will continue with our judicial review proceedings against the CC's decision requiring BAA to sell Stansted.
"We believe the South East airports market has changed and BAA has changed since the CC's (original) 2009 decision. It is also clearer now than it has ever been that Heathrow and Stansted serve different markets."
The sale of Edinburgh or Glasgow would leave BAA with five airports - Heathrow, Stansted, Southampton, Aberdeen, and one of either Edinburgh or Glasgow.