Calls to fast-track the handover of air duty

Control of air passenger duty is one of the items in Lord Smith's report. Picture: Alex Hewitt
Control of air passenger duty is one of the items in Lord Smith's report. Picture: Alex Hewitt
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WESTMINSTER parties were today urged to fast-track one of the new tax powers they plan to transfer to the Scottish Parliament so Edinburgh can start reaping the benefits straight away.

Edinburgh Airport bosses said control of air passenger duty (APD) should be handed to Holyrood as soon as possible, without waiting for the other tax powers which the cross-party Smith Commission recommended in a package of further devolution.

An independent report last year forecast that continuation of APD would cost Edinburgh a million passengers by 2016.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed the SNP wanted first to halve and ultimately abolish APD. “We want to see APD go because that’s in the best interests of growing traffic at our airports,” she said.

Gordon Dewar, chief executive of Edinburgh Airport, said: “We welcome the Smith Commission’s recommendation that APD is devolved to the Scottish Parliament. This should not and need not wait for legislation on other tax changes.

“We strongly believe that there is a real case to see it devolved as soon as possible so that Scotland can capitalise fully on the benefits of this fantastic year where we have been in the global spotlight.The removal or reducing of this tax will see millions of more passengers come to Scotland as our major airlines have indicated.

“Airline planners are finalising 2015 now and we run the risk of losing that momentum as those people who wish to visit us are deterred by the highest aviation taxes in the world.”

Edinburgh Eastern SNP MSP Kenny MacAskill said devolution of APD would be helpful for the Capital.

The former justice secretary also welcomed the devolution of British Transport Police, which would see officers north of the Border become part of Police Scotland.

He said: “It was ludicrous that Police Scotland were outside Waverley, BTP were inside Waverley, and if anything major had happened Police Scotland would have to deal with it.”

He also welcomed allowing public sector companies to bid for rail franchises, but said it would have made no difference to the East Coast sell-off announced yesterday because it was a cross-Border service. “It would only affect ScotRail in future years, but it’s too late for this time,” he said.

But he said none of the changes were radical. “They’re common sense and should have been done a long time ago. Any further devolution is to be welcomed, but this is not what we were promised. We have a considerable journey still to travel.”