A committee of the Scottish Parliament is currently looking at proposals for an “Air Departure Tax Bill” to replace Air Passenger Duty (APD) when this is devolved next year. Like many people, I’m concerned at the Scottish Government’s plans to cut and eventually abolish that charge. I’ve therefore sent a submission to the committee asking them to propose amendments to the Bill which would prevent any Scottish Government introducing changes to APD which would be environmentally damaging.
My submission is below. You can send your own views and evidence to the Scottish Parliament committee by email to: Finance.Constitution@parliament.scot.
But hurry – the consultation period closes on 10th February 2017!
“Submission to the Scottish Parliament Finance & Constitution committee:proposals for Air Departure Tax Bill
The proposed Air Departure Tax will give the Scottish Government the powers, subject to approval by the Parliament, to charge a tax to replace the current Air Passenger Duty (APD) levied across the UK.
I am concerned that the Scottish Government, in line with the policy of the SNP, is currently proposing to reduce the level of tax paid under the APD regime. A proposal for certain reductions in air passenger tax has also been made by the Scottish Conservative & Unionist Party.
I believe that these proposals must inevitably lead to damaging environmental consequences, and reduction in government revenue, at a time when public services in Scotland are under pressure. The only way in which they would not have an effect on government revenue would be if the number of flights leaving from Scotland increased substantially, but that in itself would mean even greater effects on the environment.
I therefore urge the committee to recommend changes in the draft Air Departure Tax bill to make sure that the effect of any changes in the air passenger regime introduced by the Scottish Government would not have negative environmental consequences overall.
I have drafted a possible amendment to the Bill which seeks to achieve that objective. It is set out below. I should emphasise that I am not a parliamentary draftsman, and I am sure that the terms of my proposed amendment could be improved by those with expertise in that field. I believe, however, that it sets out important principles which should be incorporated in the Bill.
My proposal would allow the Scottish Government to vary the existing rates and bands of air passenger tax if it wished. It could, for example, reduce tax on international flights, but increase tax on domestic flights for which other methods of transport are easily available.
Proposed amendment to the Air Departure Tax (Scotland) Bill
In Section 10 of the Air Departure Tax (Scotland) Bill (Tax bands and rate amounts to be set by regulations) after sub-section (1) insert:
(2) Before making regulations under this section, the Scottish Ministers shall ensure that they undertake an environmental assessment of the impact of the regulations which they propose to make. Any such assessment shall include consideration of whether the making of such regulations would be likely to result in (i) a net increase of emissions contributing to global climate change, or (ii) a deterioration of air quality in the immediate vicinity of airports in Scotland.
(3) The Scottish Ministers shall have regard to any environmental assessment which is produced under sub-section (2) of this section in making any regulations under this section.
(4) The Scottish Ministers shall not make any regulations under this section which would be likely to result in (i) a net increase of emissions contributing to climate change or (ii) a deterioration of air quality in the immediate vicinity of airports in Scotland.
Mark Lazarowicz ”