‘Transport Minister Keith Brown has called on the UK Government to ensure that its new aviation framework addresses the concerns of all regions in the UK, not just the South East
In submitting the Scottish Government’s response to the draft policy framework, Mr Brown highlighted key concerns such as access to Heathrow for Scottish services, aviation taxation and the ability of Scottish airports to compete for new air routes.
He expressed particular frustration that the framework offered little reassurance regarding the current trend of declining access to Heathrow for Scottish and regional UK airports.
He said: “Heathrow should be an asset and economic generator for the whole of the UK, not just the south east.
“Maintaining access to London is a huge concern for the aviation industry in Scotland and this access needs to be specifically to Heathrow. Heathrow is the UK’s only global hub airport and it provides a gateway into Scotland for business travellers and tourists, as well as allowing Scottish passengers to travel on to destinations such as North America and the Far East.
“Access to Heathrow for domestic services cannot be left entirely to market forces or we will see Scottish services continue to deteriorate. In the past five years, the number of flights from Edinburgh and Glasgow to Heathrow has dropped dramatically.
“There are no practical solutions being offered up at this stage and longer term options such as a third runway at Heathrow, even if approved, would take at least 10 years to deliver, by which time our economy will have suffered massively.
“If the UK Government does not wish this scenario to be played out, it needs to proactively consider what powers it has and then utilise these or look at how it can promote and support new policies in a European context.”
Earlier this week, Scotland’s largest airports published a study showing that Scotland had lost 1.7 million air passengers in five years due to increases in Air Passenger Duty (APD) and demanded immediate action from the UK Government on the issue.
The Scottish Government has repeatedly called for APD to be devolved to allow rates to reflect the inherent differences across the regions of the UK.
Mr Brown explained: “Progressive increases in APD are crippling our aviation sector and hampering efforts to attract new, direct international flights from Scottish airports. Yet this aviation framework from the UK Government completely fails to address that, despite the Calman Commission recommending the tax be devolved back in 2009.
“This policy framework is very much south east of England centric and does not come any where near solving our concerns on meaningful protection of our access to Heathrow and aviation taxation.”
Liz Cameron, Chief Executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce, added:
“The UK needs an aviation framework that delivers for all of its constituent nations and regions and, from a Scottish perspective, our priority is to ensure the right transport connectivity to ensure Scotland’s future economic prosperity. That means getting the right mix of direct international air services from Scottish Airports and having extensive access to Heathrow, the UK’s hub airport.
“We believe that devolving Air Passenger Duty to Scotland would be beneficial in terms of creating a tax regime more suited to the needs of Scotland’s airports and that creating new guaranteed slots at Heathrow is essential to arresting the decline of Scottish services to the hub airport, with a view to increasing these again in future and ultimately restoring services to airports such as Inverness.”
In October, the Department for Transport outlined the aims of its framework to Scottish stakeholders.