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Scottish tourism minister Fergus Ewing repeated the Scottish government’s pledge to cut Air Passenger Duty (APD) by 50% to the UKinbound conference in Aviemore yesterday.
However, Ewing qualified the pledge, describing it as “nuanced”, and said the reduction was likely to be gradual if the Scottish National Party (SNP) wins the next election in Scotland and has the powers devolved from Westminster.
Ewing told the UKinbound conference: “The next Scottish government , if we are re-elected in a few weeks, will reduce APD by 50% starting in 2018 and finishing by 2021.
He said: “If we do it, I very much hope the UK government will think this is the right policy.”
Ewing argued the reduction would lead to airlines laying on new flights to Scotland, saying: “Willie Walsh and Michael O’Leary have already said they would do that.”
Asked whether the government would be capable of honouring its pledge when revenues from North Sea oil have plunged, Ewing insisted: “We made a clear commitment to cut APD by half.”
But he added: “It will take time, given the budget circumstances are challenging.
“The worst thing to do would be to over-promise and under-deliver. That is why we made a nuanced pledge.”
Ewing suggested a reduction in Scotland could trigger a change across the UK, saying: “If we do it, it may be the UK government will be forced to act. It may be the UK regions may also decide to have a cut in APD.”
He added that the pledge sent a clear signal to the tourism sector, telling the conference: “We want to make it easier and less expensive to come here.
“I hope to be the minister of tourism when we start cutting the tax.”
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