Aviation tax cut to be re-evaluated after pressure from Labour and Greens

Plans to cut aviation tax will be re-evaluated, it has been revealed, as Nicola Sturgeon faced pressure on the issue at First Minister’s Questions.

Labour and the Greens said the reduced levy must be shelved if she is serious about tackling climate change.

Both parties praised the Scottish Government’s commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions in Scotland to net zero by 2045, in line with the latest advice from the UK Government advisers the Committee on Climate Change.

But they questioned how this fits with plans replace the current air passenger duty with an 50% lower air departure tax.

The First Minister’s spokesman said afterwards that all policies will now be looked at regarding enhanced targets proposed for climate change legislation going through Holyrood, including the proposal to replace the current air passenger duty with a 50% lower air departure tax.

Asked directly if the proposed cut in the levy could be dropped, the spokesman said: “That policy, along with a whole raft of relevant policies that impact on emissions and climate change targets, will be evaluated and re-evaluated in terms of where we need to get to.”

Last month, the Scottish Government said the proposal had been pushed back to after April 2020 but critics want it dropped entirely.

Scottish Government’s Stage 1 budget
Allison Johnstone, who is co-leader of the Scottish Greens alongside Patrick Harvie, says the tax cut plan is unfair and environmentally damaging (Jane Barlow/PA)

Scottish Green parliamentary co-leader Alison Johnstone said the tax cut would “benefit wealthy frequent flyers the most”.

She added: “Will you abandon this unfair and environmentally damaging proposal and invest the money in active travel and in the public transport that people use every day?”

Ms Johnstone also asked what immediate changes the Scottish Government would make now Ms Sturgeon recognised the climate emergency.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said the First Minister’s “boldest climate change policy is a £150 million tax cut that benefits the richest people the most and actually drives up emissions”.

He added: “If the First Minister is serious about the climate emergency will she once and for all drop her continued commitment to cut the air departure tax?”

Brexit
Nicola Sturgeon says the Scottish Government has increased the scale of its climate change targets (Jane Barlow/PA)

Ms Sturgeon said the cut in aviation tax is not going ahead this year.

She said: “In terms of the commitment to recognise the climate emergency, the first thing we have done is increase our scale of our targets.”

The First Minister said revised climate change plan would be published within six months of the law containing the updated targets being passed.

“We will look right across our range of responsibilities to make sure we are continuing the policies we have under way just now but also increasing where that is necessary,” she added.

“Setting targets is one thing, having the policy programme in place to meet them is what matters.”

Ms Sturgeon criticised Mr Leonard’s opposition to the proposed workforce parking levy, saying: “If he wants to be taken seriously on climate change then he has to rethink some of his positions as well.

“If we are all prepared to do that then not only will be a world leader in setting targets, over the next few years Scotland will be a world leader in meeting those targets as well.”

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