AN urgent solution must be found to ensure air passengers in the Highlands are not disadvantaged by any future changes to air taxes, according to business and political leaders.
It follows frustrations voiced by Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen airports that although Inverness is exempt from air passenger duty (APD), the Scottish Government has yet to implement a pledge to introduce a reduction elsewhere.
In a joint statement, they say the needs of one city are putting an anchor on growth in the rest of Scotland.
In reply, the government maintains that European Union agreement has to be reached to continue the exemption at Inverness before it can be introduced elsewhere.
David Stewart, Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, is now demanding more urgency from both the Scottish and the UK Governments to get the issue sorted.
"The UK government is denying that there has been recent contact by the Scottish Government on this and I’ll be asking for a meeting with finance secretary Derek Mackay to see what he’s saying," Mr Stewart said.
"Exemption from this tax is very beneficial for the Highlands and Islands and there should be no agreement that would leave air passengers worse off in the region. The clock is ticking to get this sorted."
Fraser Grieve, Highlands and Islands regional director for the Scottish Council for Development and Industry stressed the importance of APD exemption for the region.
He also maintained it was important to recognise that Inverness was the main airport for the Highlands not just the city.
"I think at the moment the exemption for the Highlands and Islands is really important in recog nising the unique nature of the region and the remote communities which exist and to enable people to fly from the Highlands and Islands without paying too much more than if they were flying from other airports but which are several hours away," Mr Grieve said.
A Scottish Government spokesman said it was continuing to work with the UK government and key stakeholders through the Highlands and Islands working group to find a solution.