TOURISM chiefs have hit out at SNP ministers after they abandoned a promised £150 million tax cut for the airline industry.

The Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA), the representative body for Scotland’s tourism industry, said the move would be a “significant blow to the future growth and sustainability of the sector”.

It comes after Nicola Sturgeon ditched her party’s manifesto pledge to slash air passenger duty ahead of a crunch vote at Holyrood, as she seeks to tackle climate change.

A spokeswoman for the STA said: “Scotland’s tourism industry is committed to and already playing an active role in delivering sustainable solutions in response to the climate change challenges in front of us.

“The STA is also supportive of policy that is sensible and well balanced to ensure that Scotland delivers its commitment to tackling the current climate emergency, however abandoning policy to reduce APD in its entirety is in our view, a harmful political decision and one that will significantly inhibit Scotland’s economic growth potential.”

Tourism bosses said they were “conscious of the ever increasing need to attract visitors from further afield”, with international visitors among the biggest spenders.

The spokeswoman said: “Growing our international market is even more important as we approach our EU exit date; Scotland can no longer rely on the European and domestic market to grow a healthy visitor economy, one which is currently constrained.

“Also being as attractive as possible for international investment and open, competitive and accessible in this way is crucial for the long-term growth of Scotland’s wider economy as all communities benefit from tourism and many rely on it.

“The Scottish Government committed to cutting APD by 50 per cent during this term in office, this has been delayed three times and that promise now abandoned.

“This policy would have been a gamechanger for Scotland’s tourism industry and a huge boost to our economy and indeed public finance and employment.

“This, coupled with the recent agreement to legislate to introduce a tourism tax causes huge concern throughout the industry.”

She said the STA has requested a meeting with Ms Sturgeon, Finance Secretary Derek Mackay and Tourism Secretary Fiona Hyslop, “to discuss what additional support for the sector can be made available at this point and to communicate the reality of our current trading conditions, which for many in the sector is not as ‘thriving’ as Mr Mackay suggests”.

The SNP announced its U-turn yesterday ahead of a key vote on the issue at Holyrood later today.

Edinburgh Airport accused the Government of lacking leadership and leading airlines and airports “down a path of failed promises for three years”.

But Friends of the Earth Scotland director Dr Richard Dixon said it was “excellent news”, adding: “Clearly, the next logical step is to start mapping the phase out of the North Sea oil industry.”

At the 2016 Holyrood election, the SNP promised a 50% reduction in air departure tax, the proposed devolved version of air passenger duty, by 2021. It planned to eventually abolish it entirely.

But after Ms Sturgeon declared a “climate emergency” at the SNP’s conference last month, the policy came under renewed scrutiny amid fears it would add to carbon emissions.