By a Newsnet reporter
The SNP have backed a pre-Budget appeal by Scottish Airport bosses who have united in calling for the Chancellor to rethink a planned 10% increase in Air Passenger Duty (APD) and give Scottish operators “a fighting chance” to compete against European rivals.
In a letter to Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, the managing directors of Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow airports claim the tax hike will leave them at a disadvantage compared to European rivals.
The airport bosses say: “In Scotland, we have particular concerns about our future ability to attract new airlines.”
They added: “There is a risk that airlines looking to serve new markets will choose other European countries at the expense of Scotland. This in turn will have a significant impact on employment, business competitiveness and inbound tourism.”
SNP Westminster Transport spokesperson Angus MacNeil MP called on the UK Government to devolve APD to the Scottish Parliament – as recommended by the Calman Commission – and pointed out that APD powers are already being devolved to Northern Ireland which, last November, benefited from a cut in APD by the Treasury.
Mr MacNeil said:
“The Chancellor must not ignore this warning from Scotland’s airport operators which underlines the impact soaring APD levels are having on the sector and the wider economy.
“The UK Government must step back from a Budget air raid which would hit Scottish passengers and services.
“Air Passenger Duty should be devolved, as it has been for Northern Ireland, so that we can 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.
“Devolution of air passenger duty was one of the Calman Commission’s recommendations so people will be asking why it cannot be devolved now?
“People in Scotland should not be treated like second class passengers by the UK Government. 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.
“This is a test for the UK Government in terms of the Prime Minister’s offer of more powers. They should allow Scotland to have control over flight taxes, just like Northern Ireland.”