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Highland Council supports regional exemption as airports clash in tax row

By Calum MacLeod

Inverness Airport.
Inverness Airport.

HIGHLAND Council has given its backing to a tax exemption for regional flights.

It comes after air travellers have been assured there is no intention of scrapping the Highland capital’s exemption on air departure tax (ADT).

The Scottish Government re-affirmed its commitment to allowing the exemption, first introduced in 1994, to remain in place following a call for a level playing field between Inverness and Aberdeen airports.

The call came from an independent committee which advises Aberdeen Airport as part of a submission to the UK government on the future of air transport over the next 30 years. It follows the Scottish Government’s decision not to scrap ADT, as previously announced, in light of new climate change targets.

The committee said that the exemption, which is worth an estimated £11 million to passengers using Inverness each year, meant passengers flying to Amsterdam paid almost £80 more than the equivalent journey from Inverness, and said that the Highland airport’s exemption could no longer be justified following an increase in passenger numbers, which last year saw some 900,000 air travellers pass through Inverness.

A Scottish Government spokesman said there were no plans to impose ADT on Inverness, but commented: “In light of the updated advice from the UK committee on climate change – and the new net zero target proposed as a result – we have taken the difficult decision that reducing air departure tax is no longer compatible with our climate responsibilities and acted accordingly.

“We remain committed to introducing ADT when a solution to the Highlands and Islands exemption issue has been found.”

Council convener Bill Lobban said: “The Highlands must remain affordable and competitive in its air connections with the rest of the world. Air links are vital to business and tourism and good connectivity is fundamental to building a thriving rural economy.”

Inverness councillor Andrew Jarvie said: “It’s taken three decades of hard work to get Inverness Airport the connectivity it has with six daily flights to global hubs – you can fly from Inverness to any continent in the world with one ticket and one stop. This has opened Inverness to the world and any threat would only take us backwards.”

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