Devolve APD to boost economy and ease congestion

Devolving responsibility for air passenger duty would help reverse the historic imbalance in UK aviation policy, providing a boost for the Scottish economy and passengers, as well as easing congestion at Heathrow and Gatwick.

Devolving responsibility for air passenger duty would help reverse the
historic imbalance in UK aviation policy, providing a boost for the
Scottish economy and passengers, as well as easing congestion at
Heathrow and Gatwick an SNP MP has said.

SNP Westminster Transport spokesperson Angus MacNeil MP highlighted
the UK Government’s failure to connect non-London airports when
negotiating Air Service Agreements with other countries over 65 years
– leaving Scotland with few direct routes to non-EU destinations.

With the UK Government currently reviewing aviation strategy Mr
MacNeil warned the debate remained too focussed on the south-east –
whether Heathrow should have a third runway or whether there should be
a new airport in the Thames estuary.

While the Scottish Government is already working to attract direct
flights to and from Scotland, devolution of APD would enable the
Ministers to incentivise airlines to provide new direct international
routes, providing businesses and passengers with greater choice.

With a parliamentary question revealing that, last year, in excess of
3.3 million passengers - equivalent to 64 flights a day - from
overseas were forced to transit via Heathrow or Gatwick when their
destination was another airport within the UK, Mr MacNeil said a
rebalancing of aviation policy could also ease congestion in the
south-east.

“There has been a historic imbalance in UK aviation policy that has
held-back Scottish airports and the development of direct
international links.

“It is the worst of all worlds because, as well as leaving passengers
with fewer choices and higher costs, the UK Government’s decisions
have actually created the congestion that beleaguers Heathrow and
Gatwick airports.

“Department for Transport figures show that, over the last year alone,
millions of passengers from overseas were forced to transit via
Heathrow or Gatwick when their destination was another airport within
the UK. And these figures only show the number of inward passengers –
not the number of domestic travellers forced to route through these
airports as they head abroad on holiday or business.

“The UK Government are currently reviewing aviation strategy, but the
debate remains too focussed on the south-east – whether Heathrow
should have a third runway or whether there should be a new airport in
the Thames estuary.

“By devolving responsibility for air passenger duty the UK Government
could help reverse the historic imbalance in UK aviation policy,
providing a boost for the Scottish economy and passengers, as well as
easing congestion at Heathrow and Gatwick.

“There is overwhelming evidence that Air Passenger Duty should be
devolved to Scotland, to give our aviation industry the competitive
edge that it needs.

“Given the times and distances involved in travelling, Scotland is
disproportionately hit by hikes in air passenger duty - we need to
take control of this tax to give our businesses a fighting chance to
compete.

“The Scottish Chamber of Commerce has called for it, airport operators
have called for it – even the Calman Commission called for it.

“Devolution of APD would enable the Scottish Government to incentivise
airlines to provide new direct international routes, providing
Scotland's passengers with enhanced options as they go about their
business more freely and more effectively.

“The best interests of Scottish air passengers are not being served by
Westminster control. According to figures from the Minister of State
for Transport, there are currently just four international non-EU
routes from Scotland. Compare that with the similar sized nation of
Denmark – connected to emerging markets like Russia, Japan, China and
24 other non-EU destinations.”