Scotland’s busiest airports have expressed impatience at delays to cutting air taxes caused by Inverness Airport enjoying special treatment.
Managers at Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen airports are frustrated ministers have failed to carry out their pledge to halve air passenger duty (APD), which they claimed would increase routes and flights.
They said the “needs” of Scottish Government-owned Inverness was putting an “anchor on growth in the rest of Scotland”. Finance secretary Derek Mackay said a year ago the APD cut could not proceed because EU agreement had to be won for continuing Inverness’s exemption from the tax. Talks are continuing to resolve the issue.
However, the minority SNP Government has also failed to gain the necessary support from other MSPs to get the APD reduction approved.
The Scottish Conservatives have repeated their offer to back the tax cut on long-haul routes only, to reduce the number of passengers having to take connecting flights.
But ministers are understood to be unlikely to strike a deal with the Tories because of their other conditions such as ruling out another independence referendum.
In a joint statement, the three airports said: “The inability of both the Scottish and UK governments to follow through on commitments to devolve and half this tax is costing Scotland connectivity and the economic benefit and jobs it brings with it. Scotland’s aviation industry has been working collaboratively with governments and officials in both Holyrood and Westminster and it is clear the Highlands and Islands issue needs political leadership to resolve it.
“We do not want to see subsidies removed but we cannot have the situation where the needs of one city puts an anchor on growth in the rest of Scotland.
“We welcome any attempt to focus minds on solving this issue. Given the turbulence and uncertainty of Brexit it has to be now.”
However, a spokesperson for Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (Hial), which includes Inverness, said: “The APD exemption is vital for Hial airports, including Inverness.
“Its existence ensures sustainable and viable connectivity and regional competitiveness for the regions. Any solution must see the remote region exemption maintained whilst promoting growth elsewhere.”
Scottish Conservatives’ finance spokesman Murdo Fraser said aviation industry research showed cutting APD could encourage new connections from Scottish airports, which would “massively boost the economy”.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government has been clear that a resolution to the Highlands and Islands exemption issue has to be found before Air Departure Tax Can Be introduced in Scotland