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Tories call for airline tax abolition to boost economy

Murdo FraserThe Scottish Conservatives have called for the abolition of Air Passenger Duty on long-haul flights to ensure Scotland can “go global”.

The party will back plans to remove the air travel tax on flights longer than 2000 miles once the tax is devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

It wants to incentivise airlines to provide new direct links from Scotland to America, China and other global destinations.

The party is also supporting an immediate APD freeze on short-haul flights to the UK and Europe, in order to ensure passengers can also enjoy cheaper fares to destinations nearer to home.

This new policy forms part of the Scottish Conservatives’ economic strategy ahead of Brexit – which is focused on ensuring Scotland gets connected to the global economy.

Calls will also be made for the SNP government to back the plan on the grounds it offers the best bang for taxpayers’ buck.

Scottish Conservative shadow finance secretary Murdo Fraser said: “APD is one of the new powers of the Scottish Parliament coming our way thanks to our proposals to strengthen devolution.

“As we prepare for Brexit, it is more important than ever to use these powers to go global, so we can create new jobs, deliver more opportunities, and build a stronger economy.

“Abolishing APD for long-haul flights has the potential to do just that for Scotland.”

He added: “The SNP has proposed a blanket 50% cut in APD for all flights leaving Scotland.

“While this plan has merit, our view is that it does not deliver the best value for money.

“Thanks to our devolution proposals, APD will come into force in Scotland in 2018.

“We now look forward to a constructive dialogue with the Scottish Government to deliver a real economic boon for our country.”

Separately, the Scottish National Party has accused the UK government of taking a ‘cavalier’ approach to leaving the EU, after a leaked memo suggested that it has given up on retaining access to the single market. 

The memo, taken by a City of London Corporation representative following a meeting with Brexit minister David Davis, suggests that the UK government “is resigned to not having access to the world’s largest single market because of its opposition to freedom of movement”, says the SNP.

Stephen Gethins, the SNP spokesperson on Europe, said: “This leaked memo leaves absolutely no doubt that Brexit has been hijacked by the hard right of the Tory Party.

“It is unbelievable that, before negotiations have even begun, the UK government appears to have given up on retaining membership of the world’s largest single market.

“The cavalier approach that Tory Ministers are taking to leaving the EU – as quickly as possible, and at any cost – shows their reckless disregard for the devastating impact that a hard Brexit would have on Scotland’s economy, on businesses, families, and communities across the country.

“Conservative plans for leaving the EU are the single biggest threat to Scotland’s economy and long-term prosperity – with the potential to cost us 80,000 jobs and £11.2billion a year. 

“It is clear that the UK government is failing to respect Scotland’s overwhelming vote to remain in the EU, and cannot be trusted to act in Scotland’s interests. It is vital then that the devolved administrations have a formal role in negotiations and that their agreement is sought before Article 50 is triggered.”

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