MSPs Back Air Tax Cut Plan But Want Details

1 April 2017, 08:15 | Updated: 1 April 2017, 08:16

Plane taking off

A Holyrood committee has backed plans to cut air tax but expressed ''disappointment'' at the lack of information provided by the Scottish Government about the impact of the move.

All but one member of the Finance Committee endorsed the general principles of the proposal in a parliamentary report but said the absence of supporting evidence ''has the potential to undermine scrutiny'' of the policy.

MSPs have called on ministers to provide evidence of the economic, social, environmental and financial impact of cutting the newly-devolved tax by 50% by the end of the current Parliament before eventually abolishing it.

The reduction in the levy will begin when a Scottish replacement to air passenger duty (APD) is introduced in April 2018 through the Air Departure Tax (ADT) Bill.

The committee said MSPs must be provided with further supporting information before being asked to set the tax rates and bands for the levy.

MSPs have also urged Finance Secretary Derek Mackay to commission an independent economic impact analysis of reducing the tax.

Committee convener Bruce Crawford said: ''The Finance Committee recognises that the Air Departure Tax Bill is an enabling Bill.

''Nevertheless, we are disappointed by the government's lack of information on exemptions to the tax and on the economic, social, financial and environmental impacts that will result from a 50% reduction in ADT.

''The committee considers it essential, therefore, that evidence of these impacts, to support the Government's policy approach, must be made available in good time to allow for parliamentary scrutiny.

''The Finance Committee will consider such evidence carefully when it comes to setting the first tax rates and bands under ADT.

''In the meantime, we support the general principles of the Bill.''

Greens co-convener Patrick Harvie was the only member of the committee not to support the general principles of the Bill.

The legislation is now likely to be debated by the full parliament after Easter.

If passed, the first rates and bands for the tax are likely to be considered by MSPs after the summer recess.

Mr Harvie renewed calls for ministers to rethink the ''flawed'' plans.

He said: ''It's quite clear from the evidence heard by the committee that this policy has zero environmental credibility.

''The government has no aviation strategy that is in line with climate change obligations.

''Independent experts are already warning that aviation emissions must be capped yet it seems SNP and Tory MSPs are ready to ignore that advice.

''It's even more surprising that the government has carried out no economic analysis at all and is relying on outdated research paid for by the industry that stands to gain.''

Scottish Labour transport spokesman Neil Bibby described an APD cut as ''the wrong move at the wrong time''.

''Across Scotland our schools, NHS and police force are facing hundreds of millions of pounds of cuts - it shouldn't be the SNP government's priority to make a business-class flight cheaper,'' he said.

''Cutting APD won't make Scotland fairer or greener. It would be the wrong move at the wrong time.

''When the SNP government consulted on this, they were embarrassed to find that most responses agreed with Labour.''