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MSP seeks Orkney air tax reassurance

Scottish Conservative list MSP for the Highlands and Islands, Jamie Halcro Johnston.

Highlands and Islands MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston has sought reassurance from the Scottish Government that the Highlands and Islands’ exemption on Air Passenger Duty (APD) will remain.

On Tuesday, the SNP Government dropped their plans to introduce a reduced Air Departure Tax (ADT) then scrap it entirely, opting to maintain charges for travellers on climate change grounds.

While flights leaving airports in the Highlands and Islands are already exempt from the current APD, Mr Halcro Johnston has raised concerns over the SNP’s long term plans for this, as well as yet undelivered commitments on reduced ferry fares.

Speaking in a Scottish Parliament debate on ADT, yesterday afternoon, Wednesday, Mr Halcro Johnston said: “As a member for the Highlands and Islands, and an Orcadian, I’ve seen first-hand the benefits of the APD exemption and the wider positive impact for the region.

“It has been crucial to the growth of services in and out of my region; a region where flights, especially those serving the islands, can still be prohibitively expensive.”

“If the SNP are now targeting air travel to meet climate goals, how long will the Highlands and Islands’ exemption itself remain? And like reductions in ADT, the SNP have long promised a settled reduction in ferry fares on the Northern Isles routes. And this still hasn’t been delivered yet either.

“I would ask for assurances from the Scottish Government in their summing up that the Highlands and Islands’ exemption isn’t under threat. And that they are still committed to reducing ferry fares on the northern Isles routes.

“But the aviation sector were given assurance only a couple of weeks ago… and yesterday we learnt those assurances meant nothing.”

Speaking after the debate, Mr Halcro Johnston said he had been alarmed to hear that, having made promises for years on this issue, the SNP had “completely reversed their position” within the space of a few weeks.

He added: “Given this example, and their continued failure to sort out Northern Isles’ ferry fares, people in the region will be wondering what’s next in store from the SNP.

“Our businesses already have to compete harder than those further south, and we simply cannot afford to allow this policy to be extended to our region. Jobs and livelihoods are at stake.

“It is important that, as a community, we stand together on this issue and remind the SNP that these are lifeline services and that there is no environmental case for pushing up prices”.

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