Minister slams UK aviation strategy

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Access to the Heathrow airport hub and air passenger tax are among concerns highlighted by the Scottish Government in its response to the UK coalition’s plans for aviation.

In his submission on the draft aviation framework, transport minister Keith Brown also highlighted concern over the ability of Scottish airports to compete for new air routes.

On the issue of the declining number of flights between Heathrow and Scottish airports, Brown said the policy proposal does not offer sufficient ­assurances. In the past five years the number of flights from Edin­burgh has fallen from 124 flights a week to 109 and Glasgow from 115 to 60.

Brown also repeated calls to devolve air passenger duty (APD), saying that progressive increases were “crippling” the sector.

“Heathrow should be an asset and economic generator for the whole of the UK, not just the South-East. Maintaining access to London is a huge concern for the aviation industry in Scotland and this access needs to be specifically to Heathrow,” he said.

“Heathrow is the UK’s only global hub airport and it provides a gateway into Scotland for business travellers and tourists, as well as allowing Scottish passengers to travel on to North America and the Far East. Access to Heathrow for ­domestic services cannot be left entirely to market ­forces or we will see ­Scottish services continue to ­deteriorate.

“If the UK government does not wish this scenario to be played out, it needs to consider what powers it has and then utilise these or look at how it can promote and support new policies in a European context.

“Progressive increases in APD are crippling our aviation sector and hampering efforts to attract new, direct international flights from Scottish airports. Yet this aviation framework from the UK government completely fails to address that, despite the Calman Commission recommending [in 2009] the tax be devolved.

“This policy framework is very much south-east of England-centric and does not come anywhere near solving our concerns.”