NICOLA Sturgeon has confirmed she has no plans to cut air passenger duty as she faced criticism over plans to expand road capacities amid the climate emergency.

Earlier this week, Boris Johnson announced he hopes to cut air passenger duty on domestic flights to attempt to boost travel connections across the UK.

The UK Government said a consultation will investigate different options including a new lower domestic rate being set up or exempting return flights.

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, Green co-Holyrood leader, Alison Johnstone, said Mr Johnson’s proposals were “deeply irresponsible” and also pointed to his plans to “expand roads in Scotland”.

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Ms Johnstone said the UK Government’s blueprint “undermines this parliament” amid concerns it bypasses devolution and “flies in the face of the climate emergency”.

She added: “This isn’t a one-off – it follows approval for a new coal mine, a freeze on fuel duty, hikes in train and bus fares, a barrage of anti-climate policies as we approach COP26 in Glasgow.

“It falls to us to show leadership but the only reason the air passenger duty hasn’t already been cut here is because of the Greens.

“Will the First Minister take responsibility and ensure APD (air passenger duty) is not cut in Scotland, whatever the UK Government does?”

The First Minster told MSPS “we have no plans to cut air passenger duty”.

She added: “Right now we’re focused on trying to work out the best way to recover our economy from the catastrophe of Covid and also how we do that in a way that is consistent with our moral obligations to meet our net zero targets and to live up to responsibilities up to but long after the COP26 summit that will take place in Glasgow later this year.”

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Ms Sturgeon pointed to the budget agreed earlier this week with support from the Greens and Liberal Democrats – insisting it shows “very strongly that commitment to a green, sustainable recovery”.

But Ms Johnstone warned that “transport emissions are going up, causing Scotland to muss its climate targets”.

Statistics from Transport Scotland show that the number of motor vehicles registered in Scotland is at an all-time high of around 3 million and even before the pandemic, the distance driven by motor vehicles on roads increased by 8% over the past five years to reach 48.7 billion vehicle kilometres in 2019.

Ministers expect that the current 11MtCO2e of carbon emitted by transport in Scotland each year will reduce to 6.8MtCO2e by 2028 where it is expected to flatline until at least 2032.

HeraldScotland: the Scottish Government's projection to cut transport emissionsthe Scottish Government's projection to cut transport emissions

Emissions from transport made up more than one third of Scotland’s total emissions in 2018 – the largest polluting sector. Of this, road transport accounts for 65% of the emissions.

Ms Johnstone said the Scottish Government “need to go further and faster” in meeting its climate targets.

Scotland has committed to cut 1990 levels of carbon emissions by 75% by 2030 and become a carbon net zero country by 2045.

“This week, the First Minister told business leaders that COP26 was ‘perhaps our only chance to tackle the climate emergency’”, added Ms Johnstone.

“She said ‘Scotland will do everything we can to play our part’ but on the same day, the UK Government released its planet-wrecking plan, Scotland’s Transport Secretary confirmed his plans to expand roads – a policy we know increases emissions and congestion.”

The First Minister insisted “we have a balanced transport policy”.

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She added: “All of our policies have to be assessed against our 2045 net zero target and ambition.

"The interim milestone, which in many respects are even more stretching because they are closer and the ambition that we need to deliver to meet them kicks in now – all of our policies have to be measures against that.

“We are extremely serious about using COP26 as a catalyst for that, as a pressure point on governments – but also as an opportunity for us to use whatever influence we have to encourage other countries to do likewise.”

Ms Sturgeon said that “because of the urgency of this, because of the need to take the steps now that will be necessary if we are to meet those medium to long-term targets, COP26 may be the best, if not the only chance we have of getting the whole world behind that agenda”.

She added: “We will continue to play our part to the full.

“I spoke at the end of last week to Joe Biden’s climate envoy John Kerry to again consider what steps Scotland can take working with the wider world. It’s not just what we say that counts here, it’s what we do and therefore, our policies int the round have to be measured against that.

“It will always be easy to pick one policy and say that somehow that jars with the ambitions we have set. What we’ve got to do is look at our policies in the round and say is this meeting the ambition that we have sent.”