Scottish transport minister Keith Brown has spoken out against the damaging impact of Air Passenger Duty following easyJet’s £20 million purchase of Flybe’s slots at Gatwick.

He wants APD powers to be devolved to Scotland to avoid further negative impact of the tax.

Scotland’s government is anxious not to lose air links between Inverness and the London airport after Flybe pulls out next spring and has been talking to easyJet about future anglo-Scottish services.

Brown told The Scotsman newspaper:  “I welcomed easyJet’s commitment to maintaining their existing capacity between Inverness and London Gatwick and London Luton and their openness to consider more flights from Inverness.

“EasyJet, which is the largest operator out of Scotland, already provides a valuable link to Gatwick and I hope that this can be expanded next year.

“All of this is of course against a backdrop of Westminster applying Air Passenger Duty on UK domestic airlines at levels which are having a crippling effect on their ability to operate – indeed Flybe cited APD as one of the factors for them pulling out of Gatwick.

“It is clear to me and anyone who sees the damaging effects that the punitive levels of this tax burden is having on airlines, airports and the Scottish economy – that the powers to apply APD be devolved by Westminster immediately.

“I will be demanding an early meeting with [chief secretary to the Treasury and Inverness MP] Danny Alexander to make this point yet again.

“Northern Ireland is already benefitting from the devolution of these powers – it is simply wrong to deny Scotland the ability to put a sensible and fair regime in place of APD, and avoid any further damage to Scotland’s economy.”

EasyJet’s summer 2014 timetable is to be announced in a few months’ time and further route information will be available then, according to the airline.