by a Newsnet reporter
Today a cut to the rate of Air Passenger Duty (APD) from airports in Northern Ireland takes effect as responsibility for the tax is devolved to the Northern Irish Assembly. The power remains reserved to Westminster for Scotland and Wales.
From 1 November the rate of APD for direct long-haul passengers flying from Northern Ireland has been cut to the short-haul rate – which is currently £12 in economy and £24 in business and first class. The UK government is also in the process of devolving other aspects of APD to the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Yesterday the SNP led calls for equality of treatment from the UK Government for passengers flying from Scotland.
When announcing the power to alter the tax would be transferred to the Northern Irish Assembly in Stormont, UK chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne said: “Northern Ireland faces a unique challenge in attracting traffic – including valuable business customers – into its airports. By announcing this immediate cut and our intention to devolve aspects of APD, the Government is renewing its commitment to stimulating and rebalancing the Northern Ireland economy.”
However the Westminster government has strongly opposed devolving the same tax power to the Scottish Parliament. Devolution of the power was proposed by the Calman Commission, but later dropped from the Scotland Bill due to opposition from the UK Treasury.
SNP Westminster Transport spokesperson Angus MacNeil MP said:
“This is good news for Northern Ireland, but people in Scotland deserve equality of treatment from the Treasury.
“There is overwhelming evidence for the devolution of APD with all four of Scotland’s largest airports backing the call and Transport Scotland saying there is no good reason why passengers in Scotland should have to continue to travel in such numbers through other UK airports or should not benefit from levels of connectivity enjoyed in other parts of the UK.
“Devolution of APD would enable us to incentivise airlines to provide new direct international routes, providing Scotland’s passengers with enhanced options as they go about their business more freely and more effectively. It would also provide a substantial boost to the Scottish economy and create jobs.
“It is time for the UK Government to stop being hypocritical and allow Scotland to have control over flight taxes, just like Northern Ireland.”