Tourism ‘will suffer’ because of SNP airport tax U-turn

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Edinburgh Airport is among business groups urging a Scottish Government rethink on its decision to freeze plans to cut airport passenger tax.

The SNP administration originally planned to cut tax by half before getting rid of it altogether, but earlier this month U-turned on the move to answer environmental concerns.

A replacement airport department tax, enabled under devolution, that was expected to be half the current rate will be postponed beyond next year.

An SNP press release, citing action on climate issues, states: “The SNP scrapped plans to cut the amount of tax paid by passengers flying from Scottish airports.

“Finance Secretary Derek Mackay said the Air Departure Tax was ‘no longer compatible’ with Scotland’s climate change targets.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Following the updated advice from the UK Committee on Climate Change – and the new 2045 target for net-zero emissions proposed as a result – we have taken the difficult decision that reducing ADT is no longer compatible with Scotland’s new emissions reduction targets.

“We remain committed to taking on the power. The UK Government and Scottish Government have agreed that introduction of ADT will be deferred beyond April 2020 to ensure it is not devolved in a defective state”.

Edinburgh Airport saw its busiest ever April last month, but according to chief executive Gordon Dewar that sort of performance will become harder to come by if present tax levels persist.

He said: “Tourism is a sector that is key to Scotland.

“From hoteliers and restaurants to tour companies and visitor attractions, it’s an industry which employs thousands of people and drives economic growth. But we are in danger of seeing that growth and prosperity fall.

“Winning routes is hard but keeping them is even harder, and when you continue to implement the highest aviation tax in the world, you make it even more difficult.

“Unfortunately, when we should be looking to build on the tourism sector we are making Scotland less attractive by forcing this tax on people and discouraging airlines from operating in Scotland.”

A joint letter from Scottish travel and other business groups to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, requesting a meeting on the issue, complains of lack of consultation and argues international agreement is needed to tackle Co2 emissions.