SNP facing pressure to axe plans to cut air passenger duty

Patrick Harvie says ministers should come up with an alternative to cutting APD by half. Picture: John Devlin
Patrick Harvie says ministers should come up with an alternative to cutting APD by half. Picture: John Devlin
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The Scottish Government will be forced to ditch its flagship plans to cut airline taxes by half, Holyrood opposition leaders have warned.

Holyrood’s newly strengthened opposition parties have the numbers to out-vote the government and have signalled the SNP will not have things all their own way in the coming parliament.

The SNP wants to cut air passenger duty (APD) by half to encourage more flight routes at Scottish airports and boost tourism. John Swinney launched a consultation in March on the government’s plan which would see the levy reduced by 50 per cent by the end of this Parliament with the long-term goal of scrapping it completely.

Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said yesterday that ministers should come up with alternative to the plan or end up with nothing.

He said: “They clearly don’t have a majority for their proposition on Air Passenger Duty. If the SNP is open to talking about alternatives then I think they’ve got the opportunity to replace air passenger duty with something better. If they just want to dig in their heels and say our way or nothing, then nothing is likely to happen.”

The SNP minority government is already facing the prospect of the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act being repealed. All opposition parties are against some aspects of the much criticised laws to tackle sectarian singing at football and the Tories unveiled legislation at the weekend to take it off the statute book.

The power to cut APD is part of the new controls which have been devolved to the Scottish Parliament after the independence referendum. The planned cut has the support of the airline industry and business leaders who believe it is set at a punitive level in the UK and is holding back growth. But opponents fear it will simply drive up greenhouse gas emissions as the Scottish Government fails to meet its “world leading” targets on climate change.

Mr Harvie urged the SNP to find an alternative policy that can command a Parliamentary majority.

Both Labour and the Conservatives have manifesto commitments to oppose the SNP APD proposals.

The Liberal Democrats have been against the proposal since it emerged three years ago.

But the Scottish Government has branded the APD rate in the UK as one of the “one of the most expensive taxes of its kind in the world.”

A SNP spokesman for the SNP said: “We are committed to reducing APD by 50 per cent over the next parliament, delivering cheaper flights for people in Scotland, supporting our tourism industry, creating jobs – and bringing more direct international flights.”