by a Newsnet reporter
SNP MP Angus MacNeil, who represents SNP MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, has challenged the Scottish Secretary Michael Moore to over-rule the Treasury and confirm that Air Passenger Duty (APD) will be devolved to the Scottish Government and Parliament.
Control of the tax is seen as a vital measure in improving Scotland’s air transport links.
Devolution of Air Passenger Duty was recommended by the Calman Commission and as such was supported by all the main Unionist parties. However the UK government back-tracked on this proposal. The Treasury claimed that they were considering a new method of assessing the tax, by changing to an aircraft-based system of assessment, and that this new system meant devolving the tax power was not feasible.
However the Treasury recently ruled this plan out, removing the main objection which the UK government had to devolving the tax. Just last month the Lib-Dem Secretary of State for Scotland, Michael Moore, pledged that control of the tax power would be devolved at “the earliest opportunity”, given that the UK government are no longer proposing to alter the basis of aviation tax.
However, speaking to Press Association yesterday (Monday), a spokesperson for the UK Treasury said that “no final decisions have been taken”, raising fears that the Conservatives and Lib-Dems may renege on their previous commitment to devolve the tax power and that their previous objection was simply a smoke-screen. According to the statement released by the Treasury, a decision is not expected until the autumn. The statement added: “Devolution could have potentially wide-ranging effects which is why it is important that we gain a full understanding of impacts before any final decisions are taken.”
Sections of the airline industry in England are opposed to the tax power being devolved to the Scottish Parliament. Bosses of regional airports in the North of England fear that the Scottish Government would lower the tax in Scotland, making Scottish airports more attractive to travellers and airlines than airports in the North of England.
Mr MacNeil called on the Secretary of State for Scotland to stand up to his Tory colleagues in the Treasury and “do what’s right for Scotland”.
Commenting, Mr MacNeil said: “The UK Government are at sixes and sevens over Air Passenger Duty, with the Treasury saying no decisions have been made while the Scottish Secretary has said that it will be devolved at ‘the earliest opportunity’. Only one of these can be right – and for the sake of his credibility, as well as for the interests of Scottish transport and aviation policy, it had better be Michael Moore.
“Mr Moore needs to stand up to his Tory colleagues at the Treasury and proceed with his pledge to devolve APD to the Scottish Government at ‘the earliest opportunity’.
“While UK Ministers are fighting amongst themselves, Scotland is losing out.
“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 less need for passengers to use connecting flights through airports outside Scotland.
“Michael Moore needs to stop the Treasury clawback, and confirm that his position on Air Passenger Duty is indeed the UK Government policy.”
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