GREEN groups who oppose aviation expansion have been asked to help devise a Scottish replacement for air passenger duty (APD) which ministers hope will increase air links when it is devolved, ministers announced yesterday.
Environmental organisations will join the aviation industry and tax experts on a new policy forum which met for the first time yesterday.
They are vehement critics of the polluting nature of aviation, but ministers argue that cutting APD will encourage more direct flights from Scotland and reduce the need for connecting flights to hubs such as Heathrow.
The Scottish Government has pledged to halve APD by the end of the Scottish Parliament’s next term, around 2020.
That would cost some £250 million in lost tax to be returned to the UK Treasury.
The move would follow the transfer of powers from Westminster to Holyrood.
Ministers have also pledged to abolish the tax – which starts at £13 per passenger for UK flights – “when public finances permit”.
Consultation on the changes will be launched this autumn.
Finance secretary John Swinney, who jointly chairs the new group with infrastructure secretary Keith Brown, said: “The APD stakeholder forum brings together interested parties to provide expert input into how a replacement tax could work.
“We want to be consultative and collaborative, as we have been with the new fiscal levers already devolved to Scotland.”
He said it would “begin the process of designing and developing a Scottish APD to help deliver our objective of sustainable economic growth.”
Mike Robinson, who represented Stop Climate Chaos Scotland and umbrella body Scottish Environment LINK on the forum yesterday, said: “At least we are in the room, even though we will be outnumbered.
“It shows the Scottish Government is willing to consider the bigger picture.”
However, Mr Robinson expressed concern about the impact of an APD cut on long-distance trains, and questioned how ministers would offset the increase in greenhouse gases he said it would cause.
Airlines such as EasyJet and Flybe welcomed the planned APD cut and said it would increase Scottish flights.
However, others, such as Jet2, Etihad and Qatar, have told The Scotsman the tax hasn’t affected their expansion plans.