MP highlights UK aviation policy imbalance

Following confirmation that the UK Government is to establish a commission on aviation policy, SNP Westminster Transport spokesperson Angus MacNeil MP warned the UK government’s approach 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.

Mr MacNeil has long argued for devolution of air passenger duty to enable the Scottish Government 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.

Mr MacNeil, the MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, said:

“The creation of this commission is a welcome step, 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.

“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.

“By devolving responsibility for air passenger duty now 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.”