Tories call for air passenger duty to be scrapped on long-haul flights
Tories believe that while the move would cost £145 million to bring in, it would help boost Scotland’s economy in the wake of the Brexit vote.
With the Scottish Government aiming to eventually abolish the charge, the Conservatives were accused of having given up on their promise to be a strong opposition to the SNP.
But with the UK having voted to leave the European Union, Conservative finance spokesman Murdo Fraser said it was more important than ever for Holyrood to use the new powers being devolved to “go global so we can create new jobs, deliver more opportunities and build a stronger economy”.
He added: “Abolishing APD for long-haul flights has the potential to do just that for Scotland. Airlines will be incentivised to put on new direct long-haul flights from Scotland.
“This is a win-win. It makes thing more convenient for travellers, it helps with our carbon footprint by reducing the number of connecting flights and it will boost tourism and trade.”
With powers over APD being transferred to Holyrood in 2018, Scottish Conservatives say the charge should be scrapped for long-haul passengers who are flying economy.
The charge paid by travellers flying in other parts of the plane, such as business-class or first-class, would be halved while the levy on those in private jets or small charter aircraft that carry fewer than 19 passengers would remain unchanged.
The Scottish Government wants to cut APD by 50% for all passengers, on both long and short-haul flights, before abolishing the charge altogether when finances permit.
Labour transport spokesman Neil Bibby said: “This Brexit-inspired u-turn makes a mockery of Ruth Davidson’s claims to be a strong opposition barely six months after the Scottish Parliament elections.
“Cutting air passenger duty won’t make Scotland any fairer or any greener.
“When the SNP government consulted on this, they were embarrassed to find that most responses disagreed with them.”
Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie also attacked the “latest u-turn from the Scottish Conservatives”, claiming the party had now abandoned the centre ground of politics and was moving to the right.
“They have broken their promise to oppose the SNP strongly,” Mr Rennie said.
“Last week they abandoned support for business to be part of the EU single market. Now they have right-turned again. They are walking away from the environment. “
A Scottish Government consultation on its APD proposals found almost half of those who responded objected or raised concerns, most notably about the impact that reducing the levy would have on the environment.
Edinburgh Airport chief executive Gordon Dewar welcomed the Conservative plan to scrap APD for most long-haul travellers, saying: “This is a positive step by Ruth Davidson’s party and we warmly welcome the recognition that international connectivity is a key driver for Scotland’s economy.
“We now look forward to the Scottish Government coming forward with their plans and timetable which should back this position and also include the abolition - or substantial reduction - of APD on all international routes to and from Scotland, not just destinations over 2,000 miles.”