Scottish Government pledge to halve airport tax

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TRANSPORT Minister Keith Brown today pledged the Scottish Government would meet the cost of halving airport passenger duty if control of the tax was handed to Holyrood.

On a visit to Edinburgh Airport, he was expected to spell out the commitment given in the independence white paper to cut the controversial levy by 50 per cent with a view to abolishing it altogether when economic conditions permit.

Airport bosses and airlines back a cut in APD, which currently adds £348 to the cost of a family of four flying to the United States.

The levy is forecast to lose Edinburgh Airport a million passengers by 2016. The cross-party Calman commission on extending devolution recommended that responsibility for APD should be transferred from Westminster to Holyrood, but the proposal did not make it into the Scotland Bill which increased other powers of the Scottish Parliament.

Northern Ireland already has control of APD and has abolished it for long-haul flights.

Mr Brown said cutting APD would help bring more passengers and business. It is estimated the levy is costing the Scottish economy £200 million a year in lost business.

He said: “It is having a hug impact on routes, airports and businesses in Scotland.”

If Scotland had control over APD, it would be a quick “game changer”.

APD levels in the UK are the highest in Europe.

Last month, Edinburgh Airport chief executive Gordon Dewar argued that Dublin’s decision to abolish APD from April next year had already had “immediate” benefits, including Ryanair’s plan to operate eight new services from Shannon Airport.