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Devolve tax on air travel in time for Commonwealth Games, demand airports

The leaders of three of Scotland's largest airports have joined forces with ministers and tourism chiefs to demand a tax on air travel be devolved before next year's Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup.

Industry leaders warn there is anxiety that tourists will be put off from flying to both events in 2014 because of high Air Passenger Duty (APD) charges.

Gordon Dewar, chief executive of Edinburgh Airport, said the charge was causing airlines to question the viability of basing some planes in Scotland.

The Commonwealth Games are to be held in Glasgow in the summer, followed by the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in September, when thousands of supporters of the European and American teams are expected to fly in.

He said: "This tax has now hit its tipping point where the damage it is doing to Scotland far outweighs the benefits. It cannot stand and must be reviewed as a matter of urgency.

"Airlines are telling us they are seeing it have an impact on passenger flows which is ultimately having an impact on their decision-making on where to put planes.

"This means that our country has to work harder to get the connections it requires. The evidence lays bare the argument that this tax is assisting with the deficit. Rather, APD is hindering our ability to tackle the economic challenges Scotland faces."

The tax can add between £13 and £184 to the cost of flying within the UK.

Late last year, Edinburgh, along with Aberdeen and Glasgow airports, commissioned a report which predicted the tax could lead to a drop in both passengers and tourism spending.

APD could cost the Scottish economy £210 million a year in lost tourism spending by 2016, and lead to 2.1 million fewer passengers in Scotland's airports, it warned.

The majority of MSPs believe the Scottish Parliament should have control over the aviation tax.

Transport Minister Keith Brown said: "Scotland will welcome the world in 2014 courtesy of the Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup, and yet we are in the absurd situation of increasing costs for people who intend to visit Scotland.

"The World Economic Forum, Travel And Tourism Competitiveness Report 2013 shows the UK has among the highest aviation taxes and charges in the world, ranked 139th out of 140.

"I would urge the UK Government to deliver devolution of APD as soon as possible so we can develop a regime that makes Scotland more competitive."

A Transport Scotland study found a family of four flying in economy class from the US to Scotland would have to pay £268 more than to fly to most other European countries, while a couple from Spain would have to pay an extra £52 for a return flight to Scotland.

Mike Cantlay, chairman of VisitScotland, said: "As we look ahead to the spectacular opportunity to reposition Scottish tourism when Scotland welcomes the world in 2014, I know the industry is anxious about how competitive Scotland will be in terms of access by air. Survey after survey shows the sheer lunacy of inbound APD and that overall the Exchequer will suffer from discouraging visitors to fly to the UK."

Airlines, airports and holiday companies have all urged Chancellor George Osborne to scrap the tax.

Contextual targeting label: 
Travel

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