Scottish Government drops plans to cut Air Departure Tax

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 7 May 2019 in News

With control over aviation tax being handed to the Scottish Parliament, the SNP had planned to replace Air Passenger Duty with an Air Departure Tax, set at half the current rate

Image credit: PA

The Scottish Government has dropped plans to cut Air Departure Tax, with Derek Mackay saying the proposals were "no longer compatible" with Scotland’s climate change targets.

The SNP faced criticism from environmental and anti-poverty campaigners over its plans to cut Air Departure Tax in half, before abolishing it completely when circumstances allowed.

With control over aviation tax being handed to the Scottish Parliament as part of the latest phase of devolution, the SNP had planned to replace Air Passenger Duty (APD) with an Air Departure Tax (ADT), set at half the current rate.

The proposals, aimed at increasing flights into Scotland, came under fire due to concerns over rising transport emissions and the loss of around £150m per year in revenue.

But the government was then forced to delay the cut, with ministers suggesting it could not take place because it would compromise devolved powers and damage the Highlands economy.

Analysis by the Scottish Greens suggested cutting duty rates by 50 per cent would increase CO2 emissions by 60,000 tonnes.

The Committee on Climate Change last week recommended that Scotland could achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045, with ministers then confirming the new target would be incorporated into the climate change bill, which recently completed stage one in its journey through parliament.

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay said: “All parts of government and society have a contribution to make to meeting this challenge - and reducing Air Departure Tax is no longer compatible with more ambitious climate targets.

“We continue to support our tourism industry, which is going from strength to strength, and we will work with the sector to develop in a sustainable way. We welcome their efforts – and those of the aviation industry - to reduce carbon emissions.

“The fact is that the Scottish Parliament has never been able to use powers over aviation tax, given that the UK Government failed to devolve them in a fit state.

“Air connectivity is critical for the Highlands and Islands, and our position on the existing exemption is unchanged – it must remain in place to protect remote and rural communities. We will continue to work with the UK Government to fix the devolution of Air Departure Tax to ensure that future parliaments can decide on the best policy for Scotland’s interests in line with our climate ambitions.

“Labour have consistently played politics with the proposed Workplace Parking Levy, teaming up with the Tories to spread no end of scare stories and misinformation in a transparent attempt to try and gain votes – but if they are serious about taking action to tackle climate change they will step up tomorrow, drop their opposition and back wider action to reduce emissions.”

Environment and Climate Change Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “Following the First Minister’s declaration of a climate emergency last week, and the recommendations from the UK Committee on Climate Change, we have moved quickly to increase Scotland’s emissions reduction targets – which will now be the most stringent in the world.  We are reviewing a range of policies across government to ensure that we can meet those targets.

“Scotland has already shown global leadership by including a fair share of international aviation and shipping emissions in its statutory climate targets, and the fact is that aviation emissions contribute a relatively limited amount to Scotland’s overall carbon emissions - so while we are making this commitment as the first step to meeting the climate emergency, no one should be pretending that this is job done.”

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