As the traditional New Year pastime of booking holiday travel gets under way Moray’s MP is insisting that this year should be the last where the UK Government benefits from Scottish tourism.
Angus Robertson has been commenting on research that shows the Treasury pocketed around £38million in Air Passenger Duty (APD) from Scottish airports over the Christmas and New Year period last year.
The figures show that duty paid amounted to around £18million in December 2013 and another £20million in January 2014 – and it is thought that the even greater sums could result in the current booking season.
A recommendation of the Smith Commission is that power over APD is devolved – now Mr Robertson is saying that his constituents will be looking for that action to be taken as soon as possible.
He said: “This has to be the last Christmas that the UK Treasury is allowed to pickpocket the Scottish tourist industry.
“Tourism is a growing industry in Scotland and is especially important in an area like Moray with our fantastic scenery, history and whisky trail. It is a sector that is vital for the continued recovery and growth of our economy so a removal of Westminster’s control of APD – as recommended by the Smith Commission – would be very welcome indeed.
“Scotland’s main airports have identified the need for this to happen ‘as soon as possible’ and that is as clear a reason as any why there must be no further delay.
“Westminster must not be allowed to drag its heels and immediate transfer of powers over APD will allow us to get to grips with this unfair tax and boost our tourism and broader business sector.”
While flights departing from Inverness are exempt from APD the tax still applies for cross-border flights into the Highlands, as well as applying to all flights from Aberdeen.
The MP’s call is being backed by Inglis Lyon, who is managing director of Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd. He said: “I have no doubt that APD is a barrier for business and tourism in Scotland, and this is evidenced by detailed research which confirms that APD is choking the recovery of the airline industry in Scotland.
“I believe it is right that decisions on how, and indeed whether, to apply such a tax should be made here in Scotland. HIAL has consistently campaigned alongside Scotland’s larger airports for APD to be devolved and we hope the Smith proposals are taken forward.”