Business chiefs warn SNP-Green airport ‘supertax’ plans will ‘hammer’ Aberdeen

Business leaders have warned against hiking aviation tax to boost climate progress.

Business chiefs in the North East have warned that the SNP-Green government’s vision to hike air duty to boost climate progress could leave the Aberdeen economy “at a further unfair disadvantage”.

The warning comes as ministers hope to iron out a long-standing stalemate with the UK Treasury over an exemption for Highland and Island airports with those sites classes as lifeline infrastructure.

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But business leaders believe an exemption for the Highlands and Islands, if the policy is pushed forward, would “hammer” trade in the North East, warning that “Aberdeen has suffered chronic underinvestment in our travel infrastructure over decades”.

Aberdeen AirportAberdeen Airport
Aberdeen Airport
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SNP-Greens ministers planning new Scottish air travel tax to cut emissions after...

SNP Net Zero, Energy and Transport Secretary, Mairi McAllan, announced air departure tax (ADT) will be developed as a method of “demand management”, by potentially hiking the cost of domestic travel to encourage people to use trains and buses instead. ADT, which has been devolved since 2016 but never rolled out by Scottish ministers, has previously been touted to cut costs to boost the economy. But now, the Scottish Government sees it as a key method to cut demand for air travel domestically.

But Aberdeen business leaders have warned the tax hike suggestion could harm investment in the region amid concerns over “chronic underinvestment” in rail infrastructure making it an unrealistic alternative for many. Fears have also been raised the tax could stunt the success of a growing tourism and conference industry.

Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce chief executive, Russell Borthwick, said: “At a time when we’re putting in so much hard work to attract international investment to our region, unthinking proclamations like this can really scare the horses - it’s deeply unhelpful.

SNP Net Zero Secretary Mairi McAllan (Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire)SNP Net Zero Secretary Mairi McAllan (Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire)
SNP Net Zero Secretary Mairi McAllan (Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire)

“We were promised a ‘new deal for business’ under this First Minister, but any supertax of this kind on business travel would fly in that face of that accord.

“Rail services to the rest of Scotland are nowhere near as fast and reliable as they could be and are not a viable alternative for business travellers, for whom time is money. Talk of exemptions for the Highlands and Islands would only put the Aberdeen region at a further unfair disadvantage.

“What we shouldn’t do is hammer business and leisure travellers with taxes on top of taxes, to provide a fig leaf for government failings on its approach to net zero.”

But Scottish Greens climate spokesperson, Mark Ruskell, has insisted that “there’s no credible route to net zero without cutting air miles”.

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Scottish Greens MSP Mark RuskellScottish Greens MSP Mark Ruskell
Scottish Greens MSP Mark Ruskell

He added: “We urgently need to reduce the number of flights that are taking off and landing in Scotland, with a particular focus on shifting frequent business travellers away from high carbon aviation onto low-carbon rail. Taxation has a key role to play in that transition.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Ministers recognise that air departure tax could and should make a contribution to reducing emissions from the aviation sector.

“The Scottish Government continues to explore all options for putting in place air departure tax. This must be done in a way that protects the connectivity of the Highlands and Islands and in particular the lifeline services that people living and working there rely on.”

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