By Sean Martin
A Yes vote in September’s referendum would decrease the cost of foreign holidays by slashing Air Passenger Duty (APD) by half, the SNP has said.
APD, the excise duty due on passengers departing a UK airport on certain aircrafts, was restructured as part of the 2008 pre-budget report following an attempt to replace it with a duty due on the planes themselves in 2007.
The 2008 change was criticised for making long-distance flying more expensive and, although recent alterations led to a decrease in APD for long-haul flights, the SNP have criticised the rate and pledged to reduce it by 50% following independence.
“The summer months are some of the busiest for Scotland’s airports, as thousands of people in Scotland fly off on their holidays and we welcome people from all over the world who come to stay in Scotland,” said the convenor of the Scottish Parliament cross-party group on aviation, Colin Keir MSP.
“That activity is worth vast amounts to our economy, with figures this week showing that overseas visitors spent £1.6 billion in Scotland in the year to March 2014.”
Mr Keir’s comments come after Scottish airports reported a rise in passenger numbers last month.
Aberdeen Airport said 343,405 passengers used the facility last month – an increase of 9% from June 2013. Glasgow, meanwhile, recorded 793,000 people and a 2.5% passenger rise which they attributed to the growing demand for European services.
Aberdeen Airport managing director, Carol Benzie, said the increase was “even exceeding our expectiations”.
“Of course, rapid growth brings with it challenges from an operational perspective,” she told The Scotsman. “With new routes coming on stream and an increase in holiday traffic, we are at the beginning of a busy time at Aberdeen International Airport.”
However, Mr Keir highlighted figures from the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPIC) which seem to suggest the rise in APD charges have increased by 160% in the past seven years.
The think-tank found that, prior to 2007, a family of four going on holiday to Spain would have paid £20 in APD – with the same trip this year incurring a charge of £52.
“The taxes being paid by those flying in and out of Scotland have increased markedly, with Air Passenger Duty having risen sharply since 2007,” he said.
“The persistence of this ‘tourism tax’ only shows that Westminster is not acting in Scotland’s interests when it comes to support Scotland’s economy.”