The trade has lambasted the Scottish government for a U-turn on plans to cut air passenger tax in half.

Finance secretary Derek Mackay said reducing Air Departure Tax – which will replace Air Passenger Duty in Scotland – was “no longer compatible” with its climate targets.

He added: “All parts of government and society have a contribution to make to meeting this challenge.

“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.”

Under devolution plans, the Edinburgh government had previously pledged to halve APD and move towards abolishing the levy altogether.

But concerns were raised that the move could increase greenhouse gas emissions by increasing the number of flights.

The Scottish Passenger Agents Association and airport bosses all criticised the about-turn.

Ken McLeod, president of the SPAA, said: “We are deeply disappointed by this U-turn on what was a flagship policy within the SNP’s election manifesto.

“Not only has the Scottish government failed to deliver on this key pledge to provide tax breaks to the aviation industry, its position on issues affecting its roll-out has completely altered.

“We were told that the significant delays to the introduction of a devolved Air Passenger Duty were as a result of EU state aid rules, and today [first minister] Nicola Sturgeon cites the need to cut carbon emissions as part of the effort to tackle climate change.

“Studies have shown that direct emissions from aviation account for about 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions: there are many other polluters which account for far greater levels of emissions.

“This is bad news for Scottish travellers and the nation’s tourism industry – we are already seeing evidence of airlines moving routes elsewhere and the net result of this decision will be reduced flights and reduced connectivity.

“SPAA will continue to lobby the UK government as members of Fair Tax on Flying, and we will be pressing for the Scottish government to reconsider its position.”

Edinburgh airport chief executive Gordon Dewar said: “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.

“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.

“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.”

Derek Provan, chief executive of AGS Airports which owns and manages Aberdeen and Glasgow airports, described the decision as a “huge blow for our airports and for Scotland’s connectivity”.

He added: “Over the course of the past year alone, we have seen the withdrawal by airlines of almost 30 routes from Aberdeen and Glasgow airports because of Air Passenger Duty.”

The Scottish Tourism Alliance, the representative body for Scotland’s tourism industry has described the move as a significant blow to the future growth and sustainability of the sector.

A spokesperson said: “Scotland’s tourism industry is committed to and already playing an active role in delivering sustainable solutions in response to the climate change challenges in front of us.

“The STA is also supportive of policy that is sensible and well balanced to ensure that Scotland delivers its commitment to tackling the current climate emergency, however abandoning policy to reduce APD in its entirety is in our view, a harmful political decision and one that will significantly inhibit Scotland’s economic growth potential.

“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 game-changer 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 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.”

 

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