Majority object to cut in air passenger duty in Scottish Government consultation

Campaigners urge the Scottish Government to re-think the policy on environmental and economic grounds

A MAJORITY of respondents to the Scottish Government’s consultation on cutting Air Passenger Duty (APD) by 50 per cent have objected to the proposals, with campaigners saying the SNP should now drop the policy.

In their 2016 Scottish election manifesto the SNP announced plans to cut the APD – a tax applied to all passengers leaving a UK airport – when control over the duty is devolved to the Scottish Parliament. They pledged that it would be “abolish[ed] entirely when resources allow.” Critics, however, have said this could be environmentally and economically detrimental.

The Scottish Government’s analysis of responses to the consultation said: “Most of [the] respondents expressed an objection to or raised concerns around the potential impact of the reduction in APD. This was primarily around the negative environmental impact of an increase in air travel as a result of the reduction in APD.”

Other reasons for objection included a claim that the proposal was “socially regressive”, with affluent travellers benefiting most; the potential loss to the public purse and ensuing cuts to public services, and obstructing development of other transport modes such as high-speed rail.

“It’s disappointing that the Finance Minister is not heeding the concerns being expressed in this consultation.” Andy Wightman

Welcoming the results, the Scottish Green Party said: “Scottish Greens have long questioned the Scottish Government's policy, forcing ministers to reveal that cutting the duty would increase air traffic and associated climate change emissions.”

Green spokesperson, Andy Wightman MSP, added: “It’s disappointing that the Finance Minister is not heeding the concerns being expressed in this consultation. Most of the 160 respondents expressed an objection to cutting APD, given it will increase climate change emissions and remove vital funding for public services.”

“A 50 per cent reduction will bring an extra 18 million passengers to Scotland between the cut being confirmed and the end of 2021.” Gordon Robertson

Gordon Robertson, a spokesperson for Edinburgh Airport, claimed that the policy would come as a huge boost to the Scottish economy.

He said: “A 50 per cent reduction will bring an extra 18 million passengers to Scotland between the cut being confirmed and the end of 2021. It will generate 10,000 new jobs in tourism and add more than £300m Gross Value Added per year to the Scottish economy and generate a range of tax revenues that will comfortably exceed the cost of the reduction.”

Speaking to environmental concerns raised in the consultation process, he said: “The industry has never been more aware of the requirement to minimise our carbon emissions and to do everything we can to reduce our carbon footprint, and we are all ensuring we make every effort including working with Sustainable Aviation to do just that.”

Globally, aviation accounts for three per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions. But in the UK aviation accounts for some six per cent of total emissions. 

Adding to calls for the Scottish Government to think again about the proposals, Common Weal’s head of policy and research, Ben Wray said: “Less than two weeks ago, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh Airport were exposed as tax dodgers, depositing assets in offshore tax havens. Now the Scottish Government has indicated in its response to their public consultation on APD that they are going to proceed with a huge gift to the airport lobby in the form of a 50 per cent tax cut.”

“The Scottish Government is set to lose £150m per annum in revenue from this tax cut and our analysis shows that the likely decline in domestic tourism from increased out-bound flights means any benefits to the Scottish economy are likely to be out-weighed by the negatives.There's still time for the Scottish Government to re-think this hasty tax cut for an industry sector that doesn't need or deserve it.”

Picture courtesy of: adrian, acediscovery

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