AIRLINES have branded a consultation on air passenger duty a "sham" after the UK Government ruled out a reduction in the controversial tax and resisted calls to devolve responsibility for it to Scotland.

The Treasury said an 8% increase in APD, which is paid by passengers on all flights departing from UK airports, would go ahead in January due to pressure on the public finances, despite claims from business leaders that it is damaging tourism and costing jobs.

Despite initially pledging to devolve the tax as part of the Scotland Bill, a formal Treasury response to the consultation yesterday said merely that it would "continue to explore the feasibility and likely effects of devolution of APD to Scotland and Wales".

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However, legislation to devolve APD to Northern Ireland will be introduced following an emergency cut to the tax on long-haul flights in September, the Treasury confirmed.

The decision was attacked by a broad coalition of airports, airlines, business groups and tourism bodies yesterday.

In a statement, the bosses of easyJet, Ryanair, Virgin Atlantic and British Airways parent company IAG, said: "The Government's consultation on APD has been a sham and a waste of taxpayers' money."

Amanda McMillan, managing director of Glasgow Airport, said it was "deeply concerning" that the UK Government planned to forge ahead with it's planned increase in APD.

"UK aviation tax rates are the highest of any major European country and APD is already proving a significant barrier to attracting new routes," she said.

A Treasury spokesman said: "The Government has been consistent that the aviation sector must play its part in reducing the deficit and restoring the public finances."