Local MSP David Stewart, Labour asked about the continuation of the Highlands and Islands exemption to Air Departure Tax at First Minister’s Questions today, 1st of November.
“To ask the First Minister what recent discussions the Scottish Government has had with the European Commission regarding the Highlands and Islands exemption from the Air Departure Tax.”
FM Nicola Sturgeon said:
“We want to protect the existing Highlands and Islands exemption from the air departure tax. We have written to the United Kingdom Government, asking it to notify the exemption for approval to the European Commission, and we have on-going discussions with it on the matter. Only the UK Government, as the European Union member state, can engage with the Commission to pursue that notification.
“However, as has been previously set out, notification is only one avenue. We are continuing to explore a range of options in order to try to find the best possible solution to the Highlands and Islands exemption issue, which, of course, needs to be resolved before ADT can be introduced in Scotland.”
David Stewart said:
“The First Minister will be well aware of the calls from some quarters of the aviation industry south of the Highland line to kill off the Highlands & Islands exemption, with potentially damaging consequences for businesses and communities across the region.
“Can the First Minister give Parliament an absolute assurance today that she will resist these misguided demands, and protect the interests of the Highlands and Islands by preserving this vitally important exemption.”
In her reply Nicola Sturgeon said:
“It is not just the case that I can give that assurance; the actions that we have taken to date demonstrate that we are absolutely determined to protect the Highlands and Islands exemption. We have taken the decision that ADT cannot be introduced and that some policy changes that we want to make therefore cannot happen until we have resolved the issue of the exemption. We continue to take steps to try to get the UK Government, with us, to come up with solutions.
“I do not know whom, exactly, David Stewart was citing, but I would certainly not support anybody who wants to kill off the exemption. We understand that the exemption is important for the economy and connectivity of the Highlands and Islands, which is why we are taking action to try to protect it.”
Afterwards, David Stewart welcomed the First Minister’s positive reply and stressed that the current exemption for passengers flying from Highlands and Islands airports, meant up to a 16% reduction on some flights to the UK, Europe and beyond.
“This is an extremely important exemption for the region, also making regional routes more viable and sustainable.
“To progress this the Scottish Government needs to have further talks with the UK Government and with the European Commission as a matter of urgency.
“I will continue to stand up for the Highlands and Islands on this one.”