Scots airports in devolved air passenger duty call

Gordon Dewar believes the evidence for APD to be devolved speaks for itself. Picture: Jane Barlow
Gordon Dewar believes the evidence for APD to be devolved speaks for itself. Picture: Jane Barlow
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THE country’s largest airports have made a joint call for control of air passenger duty (APD) to be devolved to Holyrood, claiming the tax is damaging Scotland.

Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow airports set out their case in a submission to the Smith Commission, which is looking at further devolution for Scotland.

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The airports argue abolition of the charge - described as the highest air passenger tax in the world - would pay for itself and bring about “real and swift” economic benefits.

APD is an excise duty levied on the carriage of passengers from UK airports. Rates are set by the Government at Westminster.

In April last year, the Republic of Ireland scrapped its equivalent of APD, meaning the UK is one of five remaining countries in Europe to levy a passenger departure tax.

The airports want APD to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament to allow for “its reduction and eventual abolition” in line with the Scottish Government’s commitment on the issue.

The bases argue the duty costs Scotland more than two million passengers per annum.

A 2012 report, commissioned by the airports, warned that by 2016 the duty will cost the Scottish economy up to £210 million in lost tourism spend each year, their submission stated. In the same period, they estimate that APD in Scotland will raise £200 million for the Treasury.

The airports have campaigned over a prolonged period for the abolition of APD and contend that the charge in its current form “amounts to an unnecessary tax on Scotland’s domestic and global connectivity”.

Their submission stated: “We believe that APD as it stands is damaging Scotland. It is damaging our economy, our tourism potential and our ability as a nation to prosper.”

It continued: “This tax has now hit its tipping point where the damage that it is doing to Scotland outweighs the benefits, which can only really be measured in terms of revenues for HMT (the Treasury).

“The Treasury, despite clear and sustained evidence that it is damaging our country, is implacable - the tax stays and indeed will only increase.

“UK politicians, some of whom represent Scottish constituencies, have consistently avoided any meaningful discussions on the issue.

“We are therefore of the opinion that the Scottish Government, directed by the Scottish Parliament, is best-placed to manage this tax in a way that benefits Scotland.”

Gordon Dewar, chief executive of Edinburgh Airport, said: “Scotland’s airports unanimously agree that air passenger duty is hugely damaging to our industry.

“We’ve argued long and hard for its reduction or abolition and have been ignored, but now the evidence for its devolution to Scotland speaks for itself.”

Amanda McMillan, managing director of Glasgow Airport, said: “If Scotland is to attract and sustain the routes that will enable it to compete effectively in the global marketplace then it is imperative the issue of APD is addressed.

“It is a significant barrier to growth and it also makes it extremely challenging to maintain our existing routes.”

Aberdeen managing director Carol Benzie said she was encouraged by the support received from across the political divide.

“It says a lot about an issue when there is near political agreement on the subject across a number of parties, as well as support from the public and from businesses,” she said.

Transport minister Keith Brown welcomed the submission from the three airports.

He said: “This is something we have long called for and a move that has widespread support within the aviation and tourism industry.

“This submission from the airports only strengthens that argument.”