Like the workers of Glasgow airport, I was bitterly disappointed by news Ryanair is to close its base in Glasgow, with potentially 300 job losses. Glasgow Airport and Ryanair have both rightly blamed the slowness of the Scottish government in implementing a 50% reduction in Air Passenger Duty (APD) by April 2018. Instead, Finance minister Derek Mackay said he was “disappointed “and aims to implement a reduction in APD by the end of this parliament. In other words, they are kicking it into the long grass due to the influence of their Scottish Green bedfellows. As a result, the lack of action on APD combined with a hard Brexit will ensure our economy and tourism worth £8.9 billion will be damaged. This need not be so.
It has been noted numerous times how British Air Passenger duty is the most expensive air passenger tax in the world with only five other European countries using this regressive tax. With APD now devolved to Scotland, it is no surprise that those with an interest in its reduction are Scotland’s main airports, airlines, the tourist industry and of course passengers who pay between £13 to £438 in APD.
Reducing APD would help combat Scotland’s sluggish economic growth and boost Scotland’s tourism and wider economy. An in-depth report conducted for Edinburgh Airport by York Aviation concluded the benefits of merely halving this tax. If the tax was to be halved it would create up to 4,000 more jobs by 2020. It would have by 2020 added £1 billion extra to the Scottish economy. Instead, because the Scottish Government have acted so slow Scotland won’t see any of these benefits. It will instead see potentially 300 job losses!
Halving or abolishing APD is backed by a wide range of different organisations such as the Scottish chamber of commerce saying it is vital for Scotland to attract business from the world and to make Scotland an economic powerhouse. Visit Scotland to have been long been critical of APD impact on the Scottish tourism by saying that “APD has been a major deterrent for potential visitors”.
Ireland who abolished its APD in 2014 has seen the benefits with 21 new routes alone in the year since the tax was abolished and it has stimulated the wider Irish economy. Also, Northern Ireland residents flying from Dublin increased by 52% 1 year after the tax was axed. Similar results could be applied to more Northern England residents using Scottish airports if the tax was halved or abolished.
The Scottish Greens have argued that reducing or axing APD would mean Scotland would increase its C02 emissions which may be true, but they fail to take into account is that by having more direct flights to Scotland it means fewer Scots using two flights (usually to London and Amsterdam then onwards) to get to the same destination.
Halving or abolishing APD is a win-win for Scotland, with cheaper and more direct flights for Scots and more importantly more jobs and growth for Scotland’s lagging economy. That is why the Scottish government must get a grip and listen to Visit Scotland, Airports and the Scottish Chamber of Commerce instead of the Greens and put our economy first. If it is serious about improving our economy and boosting our tourism in the context of a potentially hard Brexit then it will act now, not by the end of this parliament.