A GROUP of MPs have criticised UK ministers for failing to acknowledge the unique position of airports in connecting people in Scotland by failing to give adequate support to recover from the pandemic.

The UK Government failed to mention ‘Scotland’ once in its response to the Scottish Affairs' committee's report into the airports sector which warned that the pandemic and a slow recovery plan was likely to impact further progress and modernisation.

In its report, Airports in Scotland, MPs acknowledged the importance of airports to rural communities across Scotland, which was brought into sharp focus during the last two years.

The coronavirus crisis severely impacted Scottish airports, with passenger numbers dropping by more than 75% in Scotland in 2020.

Aviation leaders have said passenger number recovery could take until 2025 But in response, UK ministers said that it will not offer financial support for the latest phase of the airspace modernisation programme – which could deliver quicker, quieter and cleaner journeys – despite airports still recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The committee had warned that the programme risked collapse unless it was properly funded, making the case for a swift recovery plan even more pertinent.

The committee stressed that air travel is a lifeline for many across Scotland, particularly in remote areas, yet the committee said the UK Government failed to respond to the MPs' concern that too many air travel routes have been lost during Covid-19.

The MPs raised concern over the lack of a "joined-up" approach between the devolved nations and the timings of Covid-19 travel restrictions. But the committee said that rather than addressing this specific concern, the UK Government explains the importance of effective working, and did not outline any steps to review communications around the pandemic.

UK ministers also "failed to address" the committee’s recommendation that ministers consider how the money raised from Air Passenger Duty could be used for environmental purposes.

HeraldScotland:

While the issue of the Air Passenger Duty is devolved, it is dependent on cross-government working to resolve legal issues around an exemption for the Highlands and Islands.

The committee urged ministers to come together to explore this issue, which would then allow the introduction of the Air Departure Tax.

Scottish Affairs Committee chairman Pete Wishart said: “I have one glaring question to the UK Government about its response: what about Scotland?

"In its answers to our committee’s report, which made blatantly clear that airports are a lifeline for many in terms of connectivity in Scotland, it failed to mention ‘Scotland’ once.

“We were very clear in our report that airports in Scotland have been severely impacted by the pandemic. Yet many Scottish airports kept flights going for urgent medical and food supplies and to get our essential workers to work. This was all against the backdrop of airports muddling through to untangle complex and confusing travel restrictions which varied across the UK. “In its response, the Government refuses to support the airports sector with financial support for modernisation, which could benefit travellers and the environment significantly, and also provided no commitment to improving dialogue with the devolved nations over travel restrictions. It’s clear that there is a complete lack of ambition from the UK Government to support any positive change for airports in Scotland.”