By a Newsnet reporter
The SNP has today called for clarity from the Tories on whether they intend to devolve powers over Air Passenger Duty – after media reports appeared to suggest that Ruth Davidson had been overruled by David Cameron on the issue.
Despite the Strathclyde Commission just yesterday recommending the transfer of the powers, it has been reported by the Guardian that Ruth Davidson has “admitted she and the commission had failed to persuade Downing Street to allow Scotland to take control over air passenger duty”.
This UK Government has consistently shown hostility to devolution of Air Passenger Duty to Scotland, despite businesses supporting the move.
A Scottish Government request to include the tax in the Scotland Act – as recommended by the Calman Commission – was ignored, and rumours from the Scotland Office in March of this year that APD was about to be devolved in the Budget turned out to be unfounded.
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon today called on the UK Government to bring forward a commitment to devolve the power in this week’s Queen’s Speech. In a letter to George Osborne, Ms Sturgeon pointed out that the Strathclyde Commission confirmed that the powers could be devolved without delay and without the need for fresh legislation.
In contrast to the chaotic Tory position, the Scottish Government’s position on APD is clear – Scotland’s Future states that after a Yes vote, APD will be halved in the first parliament and abolished completely when the public finances allow – as supported by key figures in the airline industry and by airports in Scotland.
Commenting, SNP MSP Colin Keir said:
“Cutting APD will bring many more direct international flights to Scotland and will also slash fares for passengers, reducing holiday and business costs.
“But the Tories are all over the place on the issue. Just yesterday their plans proposed giving Scotland this job-creating power and now it seems that Ruth Davidson has already been overruled by London.
“Airlines and business across Scotland support moves to cut APD – and they will be deeply disappointed at this new uncertainty on the issue from the Tories.
“If the Tories want to prove that yesterday’s Strathclyde Commission proposals were anything more than the pursuit of a cheap headline, they need to commit to including the devolution of APD in this week’s Queen’s Speech.
“The Tories themselves say that there is no need for delay – it’s time that they replaced words with actions and immediately devolved this crucial power to create jobs, grow the economy and deliver cheaper holidays for ordinary families across Scotland.”