Scottish Tories call for APD to be abolished on all long-haul flights
Tories announce policy as part of response to economic effects of Brexit
Airplane - credit: Press Association
The Scottish Conservatives have called on the Scottish Government to abolish Air Passenger Duty (APD) on long haul flights, as part of plans to respond to the economic effects of Brexit.
With control of APD handed to the Scottish Parliament from 2018, the Tories have called for the tax to be abolished for all flights longer than 2,000 miles, which it argued would incentivise airlines to provide new direct links from Scotland to the rest of the world.
It has also called for an immediate freeze on APD on short haul flights to the UK and Europe.
Scottish Conservative shadow finance secretary Murdo Fraser said: “As we prepare for Brexit, it is more important than ever to use these powers to go global, so we can create new jobs, deliver more opportunities, and build a stronger economy. Abolishing APD for long-haul flights has the potential to do just that for Scotland.”
He added: “This is a win-win. It makes thing more convenient for travellers, it helps with our carbon footprint by reducing the number of connecting flights, and it will boost tourism and trade.”
The SNP has faced fierce criticism from environmental groups over its plans to cut APD in half, with a view to abolishing it completely at some point in the future.
A Scottish government spokeswoman said: "UK APD has been the most expensive tax of its kind in Europe and continues to act as a barrier to Scotland's ability to secure new direct international services and maintain existing ones.
"Our plan to cut APD by 50 per cent by the end of the parliament, and then abolish it when public finances permit, is a fundamental component to improving Scotland's international connectivity - which is particularly important in light of the economic uncertainty caused by the outcome of the EU referendum."
But the plans came under fire from Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie, who accused the Scottish Tories of having “broken their promise to oppose the SNP strongly”.
He said: “This is the latest U-turn from the Scottish Conservatives as they abandon the centre ground that they promised to voters and move themselves rightwards.
“Last week they abandoned support for business to be part of the EU single market.
“Now they have right-turned again. They are walking away from the environment.”
Meanwhile Edinburgh Airport’s chief executive Gordon Dewar welcomed the policy move.
He said: “We now look forward to the Scottish Government coming forward with their plans and timetable which should back this position and also include the abolition - or substantial reduction - of APD on all international routes to and from Scotland, not just destinations over 2000 miles.
“The greatest volume of our passengers fly to and from Europe - and it is a reduction of the tax on these European destinations that will deliver a substantial increase in services and deliver jobs and economic prosperity here in Scotland.”
In June parliament voted to replace Air Passenger Duty with a new Air Departure Tax, which is expected to be substantially lower
The bill will see Air Passenger Duty, devolved to Scotland as part of the 2016 Scotland Act, replaced by an Air Departure Tax from April 2018, set at half the current rate
Draft climate change plan sets out the Government’s emission reduction strategy over the next 15 years
The Finance Committee session came after Virgin Trains warned that axing APD could see Edinburgh to London rail journeys fall by around a third