Scotland politics

Mixed response to air passenger duty plan

ba jet Image copyright Reuters

Plans to cut and replace air passenger duty (APD) in Scotland have been met with a mixed response.

The Scottish government wants to replace APD, with the tax to be reduced by 50% from April 2018 and eventually abolished.

Almost half of the 160 respondents to its consultation expressed concerns about the reduction of APD.

The concerns largely centred on the potential environmental impact of an increase in air travel.

The Scottish government believes reducing APD - which is among a raft of new powers over tax being devolved to Holyrood - will help to boost Scotland's international connectivity and contribute to sustainable growth.

It has also pledged that "due consideration" will be given to environmental issues.

'International routes'

About half of the respondents agreed with the policy objectives.

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay said: "UK APD is one of the most expensive taxes of its kind in the world.

"It continues to act as a barrier to Scotland's ability to secure new direct international routes and maintain existing ones."

Mr Mackay added: "Our plan, taking into account the responses to the consultations, will be to start reducing the overall burden of a new tax in Scotland from April 2018, implement a 50% reduction in full by the end of the current Scottish Parliament, and then abolish the tax entirely when public finances allow.

"This a fundamental component of our efforts to boost Scotland's economy through improving international connectivity and generating sustainable growth."

Liz Cameron, chief executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said all of Scotland's political parties should get behind the proposals, which she said were an "essential measure for economic growth".

And Hugh Aitken, director of business organisation CBI Scotland, said a 50% cut in the replacement to APD would give Scottish businesses a "clear competitive boost, providing an estimated additional economic activity worth £200m each year."

'Polluting industry'

But the Scottish Greens, who have been vocal opponents of the proposals, called the Scottish government to rethink its plans.

The party's Andy Wightman said: "It's disappointing that the finance minister is not heeding the concerns being expressed in this consultation.

"The Scottish government seems intent on pressing ahead but there is clearly not a majority in parliament for scrapping APD.

"Ministers would do well to consider ways to use the new tax powers to promote social justice rather than simply giving a tax break to an already under-taxed heavily-polluting industry and wealthy frequent fliers."

Scottish Labour also called for the APD proposals to be scrapped.

Transport spokesman Neil Bibby said: "Labour have argued for years that cutting Air Passenger Duty won't make Scotland fairer or greener.

"An APD cut is the wrong priority at the wrong time, and now the SNP government's own consultation agrees with us. This is a major embarrassment for the SNP."