Alex Salmond relayed the Scottish National Party (SNP) pledge to slash Air Passenger Duty to the aviation industry last night and told the government “Why wait?”
Salmond told the British Air Transport Association (BATA) annual dinner in London: “APD is a millstone around the neck of this industry and of the Scottish economy. The Scottish government intends to reduce APD.”
The former leader of the SNP, who will stand for a seat at Westminster in the general election in May, said: “The duty is punitive.”
The coalition government in Westminster published proposals last week to devolve APD to Scotland in the next Parliament.
Salmond insisted: “The Scottish Government is determined to reduce APD initially by half and, in consultation with the aviation industry, see what the reaction is.”
Referring to a PwC report on the economic benefits of abolishing APD, published in 2013, Salmond said: “If the Treasury had a convincing rebuttal of the PwC report they would have published it.”
He told the BATA audience: “If the government was serious about the issue, APD could be devolved immediately instead of waiting, allowing an early implementation of that 50% cut to see if the claims of this industry are correct.”
Despite the delay, Salmond said: “The advent of APD devolution is going to allow the logjam on APD to be broken.
“It is going to determine whether this industry is correct – whether it is possible to cut a tax and generate economic activity.”
He added: “I believe it will provide a demonstration of an economic effect, which I believe this industry will respond to.”
Asked about his priorities in standing for election to Westminster, Salmond said: “One of our key priorities is [air] connectivity and the reduction of APD.”