Ministers under new pressure to shelve planned air tax cut

New pressure to shelve air tax cut plans has come ahead of ministers updating MSPs on their plans tomorrow.

Edinburgh Airport is one of the leading supporters of an air tax cut. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Edinburgh Airport is one of the leading supporters of an air tax cut. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Scottish Labour has called on the minority SNP Scottish Government to ditch its proposals to replace air passenger duty (APD) with an air departure tax (ADT) that would be 50 per cent lower.

It came ahead of a ministerial update on the scheme to the Scottish Parliament at 2pm tomorrow.

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Ministers want to start the reduction in April and complete it by 2021, followed by abolition "when funds allow".

APD is levied on flights departing UK airports, at £13 per passenger for shorter trips and £78 for those over 2,000 miles.

The plans are also opposed by the Scottish Greens, but whose support is seen as crucial for getting ministers' budget plans approved - which would include the tax change.

Ministers face a further potential hurdle in coming to an agreement with the Scottish Conservatives, who want the tax cut only on long-haul flights.

An additional factor is the need for the European Union to agree to continue the current APD exemption for Highlands and Islands airports as part of the new tax.

Labour said the tax cuts, which would cost £189million, would help frequent flyers the most.

Transport spokesman Neil Bibby said: "Cutting the ADT will not make Scotland fairer or greener - all it will mean is less funding for hard-pressed public services while the richest few get yet another bonus.

"When working class kids aren’t getting the skills they need to get on in life, it shouldn’t be the SNP Government's priority to make a business class flight cheaper.

"The public agree with Labour – the SNP need to dump plans to cut ADT.”

However, airports and airlines have argued that the tax cut would boost the economy by increasing the number of flights and range of destinations.

Edinburgh Airport chief executive Gordon Dewar has said halving the tax would "encourage airlines to schedule an increase in flights beyond existing rates of growth.

"It will deliver jobs, prosperity and opportunity for Scotland’s economy."