SCOTTISH airports are being "hamstrung" by high taxes and lag behind competitors on the continent and beyond, airway bosses have said.

The comments come as a report analysing the number of destinations which can be reached from Scotland found far fewer air routes available than in other comparable countries.

Airlines and travel companies are now urging the Scottish Parliament to support a 50 per cent reduction in aviation taxes to create more opportunities for future growth and demonstrate that Scotland is “open for business”.

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The study compared Scotland to 11 countries of comparable size, including Iceland, Ireland and Norway.

It ranked the country 10th in terms of the countries which could be reached by air, and 9th in terms of total destinations.

It also found that Scotland has by far the highest air passenger taxes of the 11 countries with only one implementing a tax greater than one tenth of that levied in Scotland.

MSPs have voted to replace the main tax, Air Passenger Duty (APD), with a new devolved Air Departure Tax (ADT) in Scotland from April next year.

The SNP want to cut the cost of the tax by half, but the rate is yet to be set.

A spokesman for Edinburgh Airport said that the report backs up something they had consistently

He said: "Scotland’s aviation industry is hamstrung by what airlines see as a restrictive tax regime, and that must change if we were to unleash the true potential that is has.

“We are adding more and more routes and handling more passengers than ever before, and while this tremendous growth is welcomed by the Scottish Government, we continue to come up against a headwind that restricts the industry’s desire to grow and establish a level playing field with our European competitors.

“Airports, airlines and travel companies are ready to seize the opportunity and position Scotland as a growth market and bring more tourism and business to the country, but the government must show leadership and the same enthusiasm if we are to succeed.”

Scotland’s strongest area is in its indirect connectivity, where it has services to a reasonable number of European and Middle Eastern hub airports.

The weakest area identified by the report is in direct long-haul flights, with Scotland coming bottom in terms of the number of destinations served, and joint 9th in terms of the number of countries people can fly to.

Mark Tanzer, Chief Executive of Abta, said: “We welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to reducing ADT, which is good news for Scottish travellers and businesses.

"The current levels are massively out of step with our European counterparts. We believe lower rates will help Scotland’s international competitiveness and the ability of Scottish airports to attract additional connectivity, as this report shows.

“ABTA believes the Scottish Government should implement any reduction as quickly as possible. This will benefit millions of Scottish holidaymakers and business travellers who currently pay the highest levels of aviation tax in Europe.”

Tim Alderslade, Chief Executive of Airlines UK, added: “It is clear from the report that more can be done to ensure Scotland reaches its full potential and better competes with its European rivals."

Last year saw the highest number of passengers to use Scotland’s airports, with an increase of more than 5 per cent on 2015 levels. It is expected that passenger numbers will continue to rise in 2017.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said that Improving Scotland’s air connectivity is one of Ministers' top priorities.

"It will help build strong business links and provide a real boost to our tourism industry.

"We will continue to promote Scotland as a destination which can sustain more direct air services and better global hub connectivity, and will work with Scotland’s airports to achieve these objectives.

“Our aim is to reduce the burden of Air Departure Tax by 50 per cent and to abolish the tax altogether when resources allow," she added.

Findings are 'concerning', says airport chief

Amanda McMillan, chief executive of AGS Airports Limited (Aberdeen, Glasgow and Southampton)

"Whilst not surprising, the findings of the ABTA and Airlines UK report are certainly concerning. They serve as a stark reminder that when it comes to securing the routes that play a vital role in facilitating investment, trade and tourism, Scotland is competing on a global stage.

Given our location on the periphery of Europe, Scotland has always had a unique reliance on aviation, yet despite being dependant on air travel for connectivity we lag behind other European nations, including those that benefit from inherently better accessibility by road and rail.

Despite having the eighth largest population of the 11 countries surveyed, the report concluded Scotland generally ranks 10th in terms of connectivity – ahead of only Iceland which has a population 1/20th the size of ours.

This is hardly surprising when you consider the UK is ranked 133rd out of 136 when it comes to air ticket taxes and charges according to the 2017 World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report. Only Colombia (134th), Bolivia (135th) and Peru (136th) ranked lower than the UK.

Just six EU countries levy a similar tax but with substantially lower rates. Over the course of the past 10 years, Denmark, Belgium, Holland and Ireland have all abolished their air travel tax. At the start of 2013 Germany froze its air passenger tax after the German federal Government published a study on the economic effects of the tax, concluding that two million passengers did not travel in 2011 due to the higher air fares.

Not to be outdone, Austria will halve its Air Travel Tax from 1 January 2018. The Austrian Ministers Council confirmed that its decision was taken to increase the attractiveness of Austria as a business and tourism destination, to secure the future of Vienna Airport as an international aviation hub and to create jobs and increase economic development.

This places Scotland at a severe competitive disadvantage, particularly at a time when we are having to contend with the added complexity of Brexit. The UK’s vote to leave the European Union (EU) has created significant uncertainty within the aviation industry.

Now more than ever it is vital we retain the connectivity we have worked so hard to attract to Scotland and the 50% reduction in Air Departure Tax (ADT) would play a major role in cultivating confidence amongst our airline partners and send a clear message that Scotland remains open for business.

We recognise that CO2 emissions from the aviation sector are rightly an area of concern for both policy makers and the public. We have always supported the Scottish Government’s aim of striking the right balance between its support for sustainable growth in aviation and measures that help limit the impact of aviation on the local environment.

It is important that aviation’s contribution to global carbon emissions is put in context. If we grounded every UK flight tomorrow, global man-made CO2 emissions would be reduced by 0.1%. Aviation currently accounts for less than 4% of total Scottish emissions and the increase in aviation emissions forecast as a result of the 50% reduction in ADT is estimated to represent just 0.19% to 0.22% of the Scottish total.

Put simply, unless ADT is reformed, people travelling to and from Scotland - who must fly due to the lack of feasible alternatives - will face some of the highest levels of taxation in the world and we will continue to lag behind our European counterparts."