Scotland threatens ‘race to the bottom’ on Air Passenger Duty

The Manchester Evening News article  ‘Air tax at Manchester Airport could force families looking for cheaper holidays to fly from Scotland’ 24th April 2015  illustrates the gradient of the slippery slope being prepared by a combination of Scottish politicians and the aviation industry in order to erode and undermine the restraint to surging air passenger demand provided by APD.

And add in the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had to resist such clamours in the first years of the Coalition government because he needed the APD revenues too much, but now – as the election approaches – has decided that fiscal restraint of road traffic and its emissions, and air traffic growth and its emissions needs to be abandonned.  “Among the tax changes coming in on 1 April is one that will mean cheaper flights for thousands of people who travel over 4,000 miles.However, those flying between 2,000 and 4,000 miles will pay more in duty. … Further reform will happen on 1 May, when children under 12 will no longer have to pay APD. Those under 16 will be exempt from March 2016” BBC

Since the depths of the financial crisis air passenger numbers at UK airports had already increased by 16% between 2011-15; now they will accelerate further, eating into the diminishing UK carbon budget so that the predominantly A-C1s can continue their national duty of flying out to second homes and on essentiasl weekend breaks. And this before the imminent decision of the Davies Commission which is likely to recommend runway expansion at Heathrow or Gatwick, on the basis that it’s the responsibility of the UK Government – not the Commission – to deal with the emissions consequences.

So – obviously – we need to cut APD even more! The MEN paints a pitiful picture of  taxation distortion:  “Plans to cut air tax in Scotland could hit Manchester Airport’s passenger numbers as holidaymakers seek cheaper fares over the border, experts warn. Over the past five years, passengers travelling through Manchester Airport have had to pay more than £1bn in Air Passenger Duty – a huge hit on holiday budgets. The Scottish government is likely to slash it north of the border by 50 per cent – maybe with a view to future abolition. The tax would currently cost a family of four travelling from Manchester to Turkey around £276. Although fuel supplements may be added on flights from Scotland, it would still make it worthwhile for families to travel north of the border for their flights if the Scottish government slash or abolish the tax.”

Despite the fact that, as Transform Scotland – the scottish CBT – have noted “significantly reducing or scrapping APD would be socially regressive as well as economically and environmentally unsound”, the race to the bottom, in Edinburgh and London, and airline HQs everywhere, must apparently be run.