This week in the Scottish Parliament the Air Departure Tax Bill had its Stage One reading.
I am supporting the draft Bill at Stage One as it is an enabling Bill to give the parliament devolved powers over Air Passenger Duty as was agreed through the Smith Commission on further powers for Scotland.
However, once we have these powers, I would have to say I believe the intention of the SNP Government to cut the rates is wrong and not in Scotland’s best interest. The SNP proposals will benefit the wealthiest whilst increasing aviation emissions.
On the SNP proposals, Unison Scotland said:
“UNISON Scotland starts from the position that the Scottish Government should be defending public services and working for social justice by opposing austerity and tackling inequalities. Climate change action is essential and should support these goals. Instead, this policy proposal would benefit the wealthiest, while increasing aviation emissions. A lose, lose proposal for Scottish public services and for protecting our world for future generations.
“If Scotland is to meet its proudly proclaimed as world leading climate change targets, a cut to APD makes no sense. The Scottish Government should think again.
“APD brings an estimated £230-£300m a year to the Scottish Government. Cutting it takes that money away from essential services likes schools and hospitals. That £300m, Stop Climate Chaos Scotland has calculated, could employ 11,507 nurses, or fund a year of childcare for 54,011 children, nearly every child who will be born in Scotland this year. It could install solar panels on 60,000 homes, convert every bus in Edinburgh to full electric, or restore 57% of Scotland‟s degraded peatlands, saving up to 1.4m tonnes of CO2 emissions.
“Cutting APD would undoubtedly start a race to the bottom with no winners (as noted by the 2015 House of Commons Transport Committee report4 on Smaller Airports), given the promises by David Cameron that he wouldn’t let tax competition damage regional airports in England who argue they would be hit hard by a Scottish cut to APD.
“The proposed initial cut of 50% and eventual abolition of APD fly in the face of crucial Scottish Government social and environmental policy objectives. The APD cut is a policy that would not benefit the lowest income groups, while increasing greenhouse gas emissions, despite the supposed commitment to Scottish climate targets and the international climate deal recently agreed in Paris”.
I recognise that the growth of Scotland’s economy and improvement in our competitiveness must include a strategy which develops new airline routes sustainably and improves our connectivity. However, I believe that faced with a choice between using the new powers to invest in our economy or introduce a tax cut, government should use the powers to invest.