Edinburgh Airport chief slams SNP ‘hypocrisy’ over airline tax U-turn

The head of Scotland's biggest airport has launched a stinging attack on the SNP Government over "failed promises" and "hypocrisy" after a pledge to cut airline taxes was dumped.

Air departure tax will not be cut in Scotland

Gordon Dewar warned the move will damage Scotland's global reputation and damage investment in jobs in the country after the planned cut in Air Depuarture Tax ( ADT) was formally dropped today.

The pledge to cut 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 2104 independence referendum.

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But environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham announced today ministers will commit to not proceeding with proposed reduction as the party faced pressure from Labour which has brought a vote at Holyrood on the issue tomorrow.

“We’ve gone from personal commitments to all-out cancellation in the space of just two weeks, which shows just how reactionary this decision is," Mr Dewar, chief executive at Edinburgh Airport, said today.

"It does not show leadership and means airports and airlines have been led down a path of failed promises for three years by this Scottish Government."

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He added: “The Scottish Government continues to implement a successful cut in APD in Inverness which has delivered fantastic economic benefits, and persists on propping up a failing airport at Prestwick to the tune of £40million and counting, so this is sheer hypocrisy. It also raises questions about continued support for our tourism sector when airlines have already walked away from Scotland due to this failure to deliver."

The pledge to reduce ADT has already been delayed and was never likely to be introduced as it may jeopardise the SNP's relationship with the pro-independence Greens.

Dewar insisted that airlines had major inroads in cutting carbon emissions and said it was wrong to single out the airline industry.
"It not only punishes families and those who work hard to afford a holiday by enforcing one of the highest aviation taxes anywhere in the world, but will restrict our future connectivity, investment into Scotland and job creation as we sacrifice Scotland’s international outlook,” he added.

But Ms Cunningham insisted that tough choices had to be made to tackle global warning.

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," Ms Cunningham said today.

" We are reviewing a range of policies across government to ensure that we can meet those targets.

“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.

“Politicians across parliament and across the UK need to rise to the occasion. If we are all in agreement that the planet is facing a climate emergency, then we all need to do what is in the national – and indeed international – interest, and not just what suits party political purposes.”

The pledge to reduce ADT has already been delayed due to a technical issue with Highlands airports and was never likely to be introduced as it may jeopardise the SNP's relationship with the pro-independence Greens.

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay said: “All parts of government and society have a contribution to make to meeting this challenge - and reducing Air Departure Tax is no longer compatible with more ambitious climate targets.

“We continue to support our tourism industry, which is going from strength to strength, and we will work with the sector to develop in a sustainable way. We welcome their efforts – and those of the aviation industry - to reduce carbon emissions."