Control of air passenger duty would mean more direct flights

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SCOTLAND could win more direct flights if Holyrood were handed control of air passenger duty, Alex Salmond has told MSPs.

Replying to a question from Edinburgh Western SNP MSP Colin Keir, the First Minister said he would be raising the issue at a meeting next week of the joint ministerial committee, which brings together ministers from the UK and devolved governments.

Mr Salmond said: “There is an overwhelming urgency on this matter. I know that the other devolved administrations share my view that air passenger duty is an important tool for attracting more direct flights to and from Scotland.

“Even if there were to be a new runway at Heathrow, it would not solve the difficulty that we have when Heathrow is clogged up, as happened during the Olympics. It is not just a case of people having difficulty getting to Scotland, but rather that people are deterred from coming to Scotland as a result of the extraordinary congestion in the Heathrow hub.

“Therefore, Scotland needs more direct flights and the use of air passenger duty is an important means of ensuring more direct flights. That has broad support across the devolved administrations, it has extraordinary support among the carriers and it was one of the recommendations of the Calman commission.”