Gordon Macdonald: New airport tax boost for Scotland

More can be done to attract new flight routes to Edinburgh and other airports across Scotland
More can be done to attract new flight routes to Edinburgh and other airports across Scotland
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As Scotland replaces Air Passenger Duty with a new Air Departure Tax, we now have a unique opportunity to bring even more jobs to Scotland’s economy.

The newly-devolved powers give us the chance to bring Scotland in line with the rest of Europe and to really compete as a destination for tourists from across the continent and beyond.

Gordon Macdonald is SNP MSP for Edinburgh Pentlands. Picture: Neil Hanna

Gordon Macdonald is SNP MSP for Edinburgh Pentlands. Picture: Neil Hanna

We’ve seen in recent months companies committing to new routes in and out of Edinburgh from all over the world – notably the new, low-cost Norwegian air services that are offering flights from Edinburgh to the US, and the carrier has already begun talking about opening routes to California in the coming years.

This progress is welcome, but there is more that we can do to attract new flight routes to Edinburgh and other airports across Scotland.

Cutting the tax burden that our air travellers currently face would allow us to fall in line with the rest of Europe and share in the benefits that our competitors across the continent already enjoy – something that has taken on even more urgency following the EU referendum last year.

Our world-leading airports are competing with airports around the world for new routes and airline capacity, and it is incumbent on us to do what we can to encourage airlines to choose Scotland – only then can we attract more tourists, improve our connections with business hubs across the world and grow even further our world class exports, particularly of food and drink.

The example of Dublin Airport’s growth since Ireland abolished its air tax in 2014 proves that reducing the tax burden for air passengers will bring positive results.

Dublin has seen a year-on-year growth in passenger numbers of 15.4 per cent since abolishing the tax, with 27.9 million passengers going through the airport in 2016. This compares with 12.4 million here in Edinburgh.

An Edinburgh Airport study found that if APD was reduced by 50 per cent in 2015, we’d have seen 3800 extra jobs, 900,000 additional passengers and an extra £200 million in GVA for the Scottish economy within six years.

Despite the clear economic benefits, the Scottish Government acknowledges the possible increases in aviation emissions – but we are committed to working harder in other areas to continue meeting our climate targets.

This is an area that Scotland consistently leads the world on – with the clear downward trajectory in our emissions showing that our efforts are paying off.

The SNP in government will always work to boost Scotland’s economy, increase tourism and give our businesses greater opportunities to trade with partners across the world.

By cutting Air Departure Tax and bringing it closer to the European average, we can make sure our economy continues to have the wind beneath its wings.

Gordon Macdonald is SNP MSP for Edinburgh Pentlands