Air passenger duty should be eliminated from all Island air fares.

That’s the plea from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

It has called for the extension of the removal of Air Passenger Duty (APD) from flights to the islands.  There is currently an exemption for flights from the islands to the mainland.

Councillor Uisdean Robertson, who chairs the committee, said: “With the Scottish Government deciding against the removal of APD in favour of a more environmentally friendly air services policy, I would urge the Government to consider extending the APD for flights to the islands.

“It has been shown that it is more environmentally friendly for passengers to use air services to the islands.

“Based on a car with two passengers from Glasgow to Ullapool and then ferry from Ullapool to Stornoway the emissions are above those for a passenger at average load factor on a direct flight from Glasgow to Stornoway.

 “This would provide an economic boost for business in the islands, particularly in the tourism sector and would also ease the pressure on already overburdened ferry services.

 “We would urge the Government to act to remove APD from flights to the islands – just as those outgoing are already exempt.”

The Government says that the implementation of  Air Departure Tax  - to replace APD in Scotland – will be deferred until the issues raised in relation to the exemption for flights departing from the Highlands and Islands have been resolved.

“We continue to work with the UK Government and the Highlands and Islands Working Group to seek a solution.

“Despite our efforts, and combined with the continuing uncertainty as to how Brexit might affect aviation, the introduction of ADT in Scotland will be deferred beyond April 2020.

“In the interim, the UK Government will maintain the application of Air Passenger Duty in Scotland and the current UK APD rates and bands, as well as the existing Highlands and Islands exemption, will continue to apply.”

Meanwhile, the Cut Tourism VAT campaign has reissued its call for VAT to be cut to 5% from its current rate of 20% to protect the future of Scottish tourism. 

The Chief Executive of Edinburgh Airport accused the Scottish Government of ‘sheer hypocrisy’ for the abandonment of their manifesto pledge while the Conservatives said the government had broken promises to the tourism industry and had "succumbed once again to the environmental extremists in its own nationalist movement".

 Jack Irvine, Campaign Director of the Cut Tourism VAT campaign said: “The reversal of a manifesto pledge is further evidence of an administration that takes for granted the enormous contribution that tourism makes to the Scottish economy.

“This decision to not cut aviation tax follows quickly after the disastrous decision to press ahead with plans for a tourist tax in Edinburgh.

“In a time of economic uncertainty, the Scottish government should be rolling out the red carpet to tourists, rather than dreaming up ways to further erode Scotland’s tourism price competitiveness.” 

 “We have always been encouraged that more than 150 MPs from all mainstream political parties support the CTV campaign, with 42 out of 59 Scottish MPs backing the campaign, including 29 from the SNP.

“There has never been a better time for the Scottish government to pressure Westminster for a nationwide VAT cut on tourism activities.”