SNP launches consultation on cutting Air Passenger Duty
Airport operators back the move, while environmental campaigners warn it will undermine climate change mitigation
The Scottish Government has launched its consultation on cutting Air Passenger Duty (APD).
The consultation has led to a falling-out over the effect a tax cut would have, with airport operators and the SNP on one side and opposition parties and environmental campaigners on the other.
The SNP is committed to cutting APD by 50 per cent from April 2018 onwards and abolishing the tax completely at a later date.
Finance secretary John Swinney said the consultation is the start of a new approach to deliver sustainable economic growth.
But while airport operators and business groups welcome the move, environmental campaigners warn that an increase in flights would undermine attempts to mitigate climate change.
The consultation comes as new figures show 770,265 people passed through Edinburgh Airport last month, making it the busiest February ever.
Mike Robinson, a Stop Climate Chaos Scotland (SCCS) board member who sits on the Scottish Government APD stakeholder forum, said air travel has the highest climate emissions per kilometre of any form of transport, warning that a cut will further incentivise people to fly.
Robinson warned that nothing is being done to consider or mitigate the environmental consequences of cutting APD.
He said: “This is about fairness. This is one of the highest polluting yet least taxed global industries. Air Passenger Duty generates £230million per year for the Scottish Government so, with constrained public finances it’s hard to see how this can be justified.
“At the same time, the Scottish Government has cut spending on measures to tackle climate change in its recent budget. So the priorities are somewhat confused to say the least.”
Both the Scottish Greens and Scottish Lib Dems questioned how the Scottish Government could justify the decision to cut APD after four years of missed emissions targets.
Scottish Labour’s Public Services spokesperson Jackie Baillie said a cut would mean “more money going back into the pockets of the richest few whilst working class families continue to lose out”.
But SNP MSP Mark McDonald welcomed the move, saying APD in the UK is “set at punitive levels and is holding Scotland’s economy back”.
Meanwhile the move prompted Willie Walsh, International Airlines Group chief executive, to call for a cut to APD in England and Wales to match Scotland.
He said: “The Scots are right to start getting rid of Air Passenger Duty. But reducing APD in Scotland will undermine airports in northern England as passengers make a dash for the border to pay less tax. This will seriously threaten the Chancellor’s northern powerhouse and lead to a domino effect across the UK.”
Amanda McMillan, chief executive of AGS Airports Limited, which owns both Aberdeen and Glasgow airports, backed the cut.
She said: “Scotland’s major airports have always had a very clear position on the importance of abolishing APD and we welcome the publication of this consultation. APD is the highest form of aviation tax in the world and its reduction, and eventual abolition, will undoubtedly play a major role in strengthening Scotland's connectivity.”
Scottish Government announces plans have been complicated by the need for exemptions afforded to the Highlands and Islands to be assessed by the European Commission
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