Nicola Sturgeon has been urged to drop plans to slash air passenger duty (APD) as the Paris climate change talks draw to a close.
The First Minister, who attended the UN summit in the French capital earlier this week, was pressed to reconsider a policy to cut the tax in half before abolishing it entirely.
Speaking during First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood, Labour MSP Malcolm Chisholm said the move would result in hundreds of thousands more journeys by plane.
Mr Chisholm said: “I welcome what the First Minister said about climate change in Paris and I’m glad that she went there by train, but in this week of all weeks will she reconsider her proposal to slash air passenger duty?
“Does she not realise that the research of the Scottish Government itself indicates that it would result in hundreds of thousands more journeys by plane instead of train, that the majority of these extra journeys would be in the UK, which nullifies the argument she used last week about exports, and that the result will be a big boost to aviation emissions which are already growing faster than the emissions of any other sector?”
Denying there was a gap between the policy and the Scottish Government’s climate change goals, Ms Sturgeon said: “We do take these issues very seriously, which is why international aviation and shipping is in Scotland’s 2009 Climate Change Act, which both Malcolm Chisholm and I voted for, and we encourage other governments to also include shipping and aviation in their own climate change acts.”
The First Minister said Scotland was “punching above its weight” and showing “international leadership” in efforts to tackle climate change and was on track to meet a 42 per cent emissions reduction target by 2020.
She added: “Equally, I recognise there are important environmental as well as economic issues when we’re considering our reduction to APD, which is why we’re working with environmental groups amongst others in developing our legislative proposals.
“We’ll continue to take a balanced approach, an approach that prioritises economic growth but also takes very seriously our commitments and responsibilities to the environment.”