EasyJet is planning to dramatically increase the number of flights it directs through Scotland if the SNP Government pushes ahead with its plans to reduce tax at the country’s airports, the company has announced.
On the day that the Scottish Government launched a consultation on the proposed reduction in air passenger duty (APD), the budget airline said it expected to increase its services by about 30 per cent in Scotland if the changes went ahead, increasing passenger numbers from 5.5 million to 7 million a year.
The SNP has committed to halving the rate of APD from April 2018 with a view to abolishing it altogether, claiming that the cut will provide a major boost to the Scottish economy. But the party’s political opponents said the policy would result in much higher climate change emissions and would only benefit the “wealthiest few”.
APD rates currently range between £13 and £146, depending on the distance of the flight and the class of seat. A consultation on the SNP’s proposed changes has been launched in anticipation of control over the tax being devolved to Holyrood through the Scotland Bill.
Speaking at Edinburgh Airport, Deputy First Minister John Swinney said APD was acting as a “barrier” to Scotland’s ability to secure new direct international routes. “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,” he added.
However, the policy is controversial. Scottish Labour’s public services spokesperson Jackie Baillie said its main impact would be to make airline tickets “a little bit cheaper for the wealthiest few”, while Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie added that cutting APD would be “a giant step backwards” in the fight against climate change, arguing that Scotland “cannot afford a huge rise in emissions”.