Give Scotland air tax powers - tourism bosses

Ian Poulter at the Ryder Cup, which is in Scotland next year. Picture: Getty
Ian Poulter at the Ryder Cup, which is in Scotland next year. Picture: Getty
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Transport and tourism bosses have called on the UK government to devolve Air Passenger Duty (APD) to encourage visitors to come to the country for the Ryder Cup and Commonwealth Games.

The major sporting events are being held in Perthshire and Glasgow next year, but some industry leaders believe tourists could be put off from flying here because of high APD charges.

Late last year, Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh airports commissioned a report that claimed the charge could lead to a drop in both passengers and tourism spending.

The tax could cost the Scottish economy £210 million a year in lost tourism by 2016 and could lead to 2.1 million fewer passengers in Scotland’s airports by then, the report claimed.

APD depends on the country an airline passenger is flying from. When flying to any British airport there are four bands based on the distance between London and the capital city of the departure country, ranging from £13 to £184.

The majority of MSPs believe the Scottish Parliament should have control over this tax.

Transport minister Keith Brown said: “Scotland will welcome the world in 2014 courtesy of the Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup, and yet we are in the absurd situation of increasing costs for people who intend to visit Scotland.

“The World Economic Forum, Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2013 shows that the UK has amongst the highest aviation taxes and charges in the world, ranked 139th out of 140.

“I would urge the UK government to deliver devolution of APD as soon as possible so we can develop a regime that makes Scotland more competitive.”

A Transport Scotland study found that a family of four flying from the US to Scotland would have to pay £268 more than to fly to most European countries, while a couple from Spain would have to pay an extra £52 for a return flight to Scotland.

Mike Cantlay, chairman of VisitScotland, said: “As we look ahead to the spectacular opportunity to reposition Scottish tourism when Scotland welcomes the world in 2014, I know that the industry is extremely anxious about how accessible and competitive Scotland will be in terms of access by air.

“Survey after survey shows the sheer lunacy of inbound APD and that, overall, the Exchequer will suffer from discouraging visitors to fly to the UK.”

Airlines, airports and holiday companies have all urged Chancellor George Osborne to scrap the tax, which has soared since it was first introduced in 1994, but the UK government has shown no signs of ending, or easing the burden of a tax that brings in large amounts of revenue.

Gordon Dewar, chief executive of Edinburgh Airport, said airlines are questioning the viability of basing planes in 
Scotland because of APD.

He added: “This tax has now hit its tipping point where the damage that it is doing to Scotland far outweighs the benefits. It cannot stand and must be reviewed as a matter of urgency.

“Airlines are telling us that they are seeing it have an impact on passenger flows, which is ultimately having an impact on their decision making on where to put planes. This means that our country has to work harder to get the connections it requires.”