As Swinney launches consultation

EasyJet pledges 30% more flights if passenger duty cut

Edinburgh AirportEasyJet has pledged a 30% increase in the number of flights serving Scotland if the government goes ahead with its plan to cut air passenger duty by half.

It would mean Scottish airports handling an additional 1.5 million passengers using EasyJet services alone. Similar commitments by other airlines will see that number rise substantially.

EasyJet’s statement follows the SNP’s plan to consult on the future of APD with a view to cutting it by 50% by April 2018. It intends to scrap the tax entirely “when resources allow”.

Powers to replace UK APD are due to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament under the Scotland Bill, as part of the recommendations of the Smith Commission.

The consultation, which is open for 12 weeks and closes on 3 June, builds on the work of the APD stakeholder forum, which was set up last year by Deputy First Minister John Swinney and Infrastructure Secretary Keith Brown.

Views are being sought on how the reduction should be structured and how the tax should be operated to help boost Scotland’s international connectivity and economic competitiveness.

A Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Screening and Scoping Report has also been launched seeking views on the environmental issues that need to be considered.

Visiting Edinburgh Airport – Scotland’s busiest airport – to launch the consultation plans, Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “UK APD is one of the most expensive taxes of its kind in the world. It continues to act as a barrier to Scotland’s ability to secure new direct international routes and maintain existing ones.

“Scotland is already an attractive destination for business and inbound tourism, and it is important that we continue to open Scotland up to key and emerging markets in order to further capitalise on the opportunities that exist.

“We want to be consultative and collaborative as we have been with the new fiscal levers already devolved to Scotland. This policy consultation allow us to take the next step and begin the process of developing a new approach that helps deliver our objective of sustainable economic growth.

“It is also a further example of the Scottish Government moving ahead with pace and purpose to ensure we are ready to use Scotland’s new additional powers as soon as possible after they have been devolved.”

Gordon DewarEdinburgh Airport’s chief executive Gordon Dewar (right) added: “We warmly welcome the Scottish Government’s well documented position that Air Passenger Duty (APD) is a regressive tax that hampers growth.

“Edinburgh Airport will continue to make the case and highlight the benefits of a 50 per cent cut to APD in one move in April 2018.”

Liz Cameron, director and chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, added: “We have been asking for the abolition of this tax for some time – it is a tax on connectivity and a barrier to international trade. The government has committed to reducing APD by 50% by 2021.

“However, let’s consider the feasibility of implementing this reduction earlier. This would really boost tourism and our exporting competitiveness.

“We would urge as many businesses and individuals as possible to take part in this consultation calling for the government to reduce it as a priority supporting the creation of even more jobs.”

Sophie Dekkers, easyJet’s UK Director, said:  “EasyJet has long campaigned for the removal of Air Passenger Duty.

“We know that its impact is most keenly felt in Scotland where passengers flying to and from other parts of the UK pay £13 on each flight.

“We strongly welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to halve the tax for passengers. They have rightly recognised that cutting the tax will boost tourism, investment and business activity in Scotland.

“Research by PwC has shown that abolishing APD would have a positive effect on jobs and growth, as well as public finances in the longer term. So it is important that the cut takes effect in full in 2018, so that the benefits for Scotland are felt as quickly as possible.

“To achieve a step change in connectivity for Scotland, by airlines adding new destinations and extra flights, there also needs to be a step change in the taxation. A single 50% cut is the way to deliver this. Too small a change risks not attracting the extra aircraft and new routes to Scotland.

“If there is a 50% cut in 2018 we would expect to increase our flights to and from Scotland by around 30%. easyJet is proud to be Scotland’s largest airline and this would mean the current 5.5 million passengers we carry each year could increase to over 7 million.

“This would deliver more services and routes for passengers in Scotland, including to European cities without a current direction connection, as well as the economic benefits of a larger easyJet operation in Scotland.”

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