What price a manifesto pledge?

By | Category: Travel rumblings

If you looked at the SNP’s website yesterday morning, it said, “The Scottish Government has set out a clear aim to reduce the burden of air passenger taxation by 50 per cent and to abolish the tax altogether when resources permit. “

Edinburgh Airport. Its CEO has attacked the Scottish government’s decision.

Shame that the SNP hadn’t been aware of a speech the day before by the SNP MSP and Finance Secretary, Derek Mackay, who announced that the APD commitment was “no longer compatible” with the government’s objectives.

What the SNP government really means is that it had found a convenient reason to drop its plans. That reason was it thought that, by reducing the tax and then abolishing it, additional greenhouse gases would be emitted.

I have sensed for quite some time that the government was lukewarm at best about scrapping the tax. The money was too great to lose (about £300 million) despite the fact that numerous studies seem to have shown that the economy benefits from removing the tax by encouraging more tourists to visit. One report suggested abolishing ADT could bring 4,000 jobs and £1 billion annually to the Scottihs economy. In fairness though, that report was comissioned by an airport.

As I have written on more than one occasion over the last decade, politicians are loath to give up taxes unless it is proven that they can raise more money another way.

Now the Scottish government can trumpet its green credentials by doing absolutely nothing.

It probably won’t raise the tax on departing passengers because that might be detrimental to the economy and drive some air passengers to use Manchester or Newcastle airports. It will also make it difficult for the Welsh assembly to reduce APD without attracting a lot of green criticism.

Needless to say, the tourism industry in Scotland is upset if not downright peeved.  The BBC quoted Gordon Dewar, the CEO of Edinburgh Airport as saying, “We’ve gone from personal commitments to all-out cancellation in the space of just two weeks, which shows just how reactionary this decision is. It does not show leadership and means airports and airlines have been led down a path of failed promises for three years by this Scottish government. It also raises questions about continued support for our tourism sector when airlines have already walked away from Scotland due to this failure to deliver.”

The government, if it wanted to be honest, might apologise to the tourism and travel community for misleading it all these years.  It could have said at the time of the Paris Accord in 2015 that they wanted to cut the tax but have been converted to being worried by carbon emissions growing and therefore would keep the tax. But in 2015, the SNP faced an election a year away and the manifesto said it would abolish the tax. Abolition could bring jobs. And votes.

Abolishing the tax was the policy in 2016 yet climate change was on the agenda then just as it is now. It seems that the Scottish government’s view is that the emissions issue only became crucial this year!

If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader.
Tags: , , ,