Three Scottish airports call for end to Air Passenger Duty

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Edinburgh Airport terminal buildingImage source, Edinburgh Airport
Image caption,
Edinburgh is one of three Scottish airports to call for Air Passenger Duty to be devolved to Holyrood

Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen airports have made a joint submission to the Smith Commission calling for Air Passenger Duty (APD) to be devolved to Holyrood and eventually abolished.

The Smith Commission is looking into extra powers for the Scottish Parliament.

The three airports claim the tax is a significant barrier to growth and damaging to tourism.

Four other countries in Europe levy a passenger departure tax.

The tax raised £2.9bn in 2013-14, with approximately £200m coming from Scotland.

The airports made the case for the devolution of the tax, an excise duty set by the UK government, to Holyrood. This would allow for its reduction and eventual abolition in line with the Scottish government's commitment.

APD has been increased and restructured by the UK government since 2007, with long haul rates increasing more than short haul.

The submission stated that Scotland's location and the fact its economy is particularly reliant on aviation meant that any loss of connectivity would have "a significant impact on the country's competitiveness".

Their joint submission argued that the tax costs Scotland two million passengers every year. The 2012 report also warned that APD will cost the Scottish economy up to £210m in lost tourism spend by 2016.

Zero rate

APD rates on direct long haul flights from Northern Ireland were devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly (NIA) in 2012, which then set the rates at £0. The Republic of Ireland scrapped its equivalent of the tax in 2013, meaning the UK is one of five European countries to levy a tax on passenger departure.

Gordon Dewar, the chief executive of Edinburgh Airport, said: "Scotland's airports unanimously agree that air passenger duty is hugely damaging to our industry. We've argued long and hard for its reduction or abolition and have been ignored but now the evidence for its devolution to Scotland speaks for itself."

Mr Dewar said that Ryanair had already committed to delivering over one million new passengers if APD were to be abolished.

In published proposals, the Conservative party said that APD "should be devolved", while the Liberal Democrat party said APD for flights from Scottish airports should be allocated to the Scottish Parliament.

Labour said it was "not now convinced that devolution should be progressed until further consideration is given to the environmental impact and how else this tax might be reformed".

Colin Keir, the SNP MSP whose constituency includes Edinburgh Airport, described the submission as "very welcome indeed".

He said: "The case for the devolution of APD has been made - today's submission from the airports has demolished any remains of Labour's threadbare argument against it. Labour in Scotland could start to show that it is Scotland, not Westminster, in control by dropping its opposition and supporting the devolution of APD.

"Assuming this common sense submission is taken forward by the Smith Commission in its proposals - the pressure will be on David Cameron and the Westminster system to act immediately and devolve the powers over APD at once."

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