Tourism chiefs demand showdown with Nicola Sturgeon over airline tax u-turn
Tourism chiefs are demanding face-to-face talks with Nicola Sturgeon to set her straight about the "reality" facing the industry after the SNP axed plans to cut airline taxes in Scotland.
The move has prompted an angry backlash among Scotland's business community and The Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA) said it was a "significant blow" for the future of the industry which will also damage economic growth in Scotland.
The pledge to cut Air Departure Tax (ADT) by 50% had been in the SNP's manifesto for the 2016 elections and was at the heart of its economic blueprint for economic growth in the 2014 independence referendum. But environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham announced yesterday ministers will commit to not proceeding with proposed reduction in order to tackle the climate emergency. It came as party faced pressure from Labour which has brought a vote at Holyrood on the issue today.
But the STA said today: "The Scottish Government committed to cutting APD by 50% during this term in office, this has been delayed three times and that promise now abandoned.
"This policy would have been a gamechanger for Scotland’s tourism industry and a huge boost to our economy and indeed public finance and employment. This, coupled with the recent agreement to legislate to introduce a tourism tax causes huge concern throughout the industry."
The need to increase visitor numbers from overseas and outside Europe is critical to the industry's future in Scotland. Domestic visitors currently account for about 75% of tourism numbers, but overseas visitors are viewed as the "big spenders."
The STA also hit back at claims by Finance Secretary Derek Mackay that the industry is buoyant. The statement added: "The Scottish Tourism Alliance has requested a meeting with the Cabinet Secretary for Tourism, the Finance Secretary and Scotland’s First Minister to discuss what additional support for the sector can be made available at this point and to communicate the reality of our current trading conditions, which for many in the sector is not as “thriving” as Mr Mackay suggests."
Ms Cunningham explained that the Government was assessing all its policies in light of the new climate change targets announced last week.
Ms Cunningham added: "Following the First Minister's declaration of a climate emergency last week, and the recommendations from the UK Committee on Climate Change, we have moved quickly to increase Scotland's emissions reduction targets - which will now be the most stringent in the world.
"Scotland has already shown global leadership by including a fair share of international aviation and shipping emissions in its statutory climate targets, and the fact is that aviation emissions contribute a relatively limited amount to Scotland's overall carbon emissions - so while we are making this commitment as the first step to meeting the climate emergency, no one should be pretending that this is job done."