SNP vows to push on with APD cut, despite environmental concerns

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 29 July 2016 in News

Scottish Government publishes analysis of responses to two consultations on APD, stating that ministers would start reducing the levy from April 2018

Aircraft - credit: PA

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay has vowed to push on with plans to cut Air Passenger Duty (APD) in half by the end of the parliamentary term, despite the Government's own consultation analysis showing the majority of respondents had raised environmental concerns over the plans.

The Scottish Government today published an analysis of responses to two consultations on APD, stating that ministers would start reducing the levy from April 2018, with a 50 per cent cut by 2021, and then abolish it entirely “when public finances allow”.

But the Scottish Government’s report acknowledges that the majority of the 161 respondents to both consultations raised some form of environmental concern or objection to its plans.


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The analysis shows 83 per cent of respondents commenting on the proposed reduction in APD raised concerns or objections to the plan.

It says: “Climate change was the main reason given by the majority of respondents who did not support the policy proposals.”

The report adds: “In addition, a few respondents felt that the policy proposals were inconsistent with wider Scottish Government policies, such as support for active travel and policies related to transitioning to a low carbon economy.”

Environmental campaigners warned that an increase in flights would undermine efforts to tackle climate change, with Stop Climate Chaos Scotland (SCCS) stating that air travel is the highest emitter of carbon dioxide per passenger kilometre and the only sector where emissions have risen significantly over the past 20 years.

But business groups and airlines welcomed the planned tax cut.

Mackay argues the cut would help boost the Scottish economy.

He said the consultation “will now allow us to take the next step and begin the process of developing plans on how a Scottish replacement tax should be structured and operated to help boost Scotland’s international connectivity and economic competitiveness, while giving due consideration to environmental issues”.

Control of APD was devolved to Scotland as part of the 2016 Scotland Act.

Liz Cameron, chief executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce, welcomed the APD cut, saying “the need to strengthen Scotland’s connectivity with trading destinations in Europe and the wider world has never been stronger”.    

She said: “Unprecedented times call for unprecedented action from Government and we would urge all of Scotland’s political parties to get behind this essential measure for economic growth.

Meanwhile Sophie Dekkers, easyJet’s UK Director said the cut would “boost tourism, investment and business activity in Scotland”.

She also claimed that the cut would have a positive effect on public finances “in the longer term”.

But with APD generating around £250m each year in revenue, SCCS chair Tom Ballantine said the “giveaway for already undertaxed airlines is the last thing Scotland can afford”.

Ballantine said: “This should be the final nail in the coffin for the Scottish Government’s proposals to cut Air Passenger Duty. With a majority of MSPs in the Scottish Parliament already against the policy, now the public consultation shows a majority of responses against the policy too. 

“Air travel is responsible for 13 per cent of Scotland’s transport emissions. Indeed half of the population do not fly in any given year.”

He added: “At a time of austerity cuts and whilst funding is urgently needed to support Scotland’s low carbon future, including investment in more sustainable forms of transport,  this money giveaway for already undertaxed airlines is the last thing Scotland can afford.”

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