The Scottish government has scrapped plans to reduce the air departure tax for passengers flying from airports in the country after it faced criticism over the environmental impact of the move.

The government had been planning to reduce the tax – which will replace Air Passenger Duty (APD) in Scotland – by 50 per cent before eventually abolishing it altogether.

Concerns had been raised that the move could increase greenhouse emissions if more flights are established due to reduced taxes. In addition, the move to air departure tax has been delayed by the government to beyond 2020.

Now finance secretary Derek Mackay said that reducing the fee was “no longer compatible” with Scotland’s climate targets.

Mackay added: “We continue to support our tourism industry, which is going from strength to strength, and we will work with the sector to develop in a sustainable way. We welcome their efforts – and those of the aviation industry – to reduce carbon emissions.”

The U-turn has been criticised by the aviation industry, with some saying Scotland will miss out on new routes because the tax makes establishing them financially unviable.

Gordon Dewar, CEO of Edinburgh airport, commented: “We’ve gone from personal commitments to all-out cancellation in the space of two weeks, which shows just how reactionary this decision is. It does not show leadership and means airports and airlines have been led down a path of failed promises for three years by this Scottish government.

“It also raises questions about continued support for our tourism sector when airlines have already walked away from Scotland due to this failure to deliver.”

Edinburgh airport had previously produced a report that claimed halving APD would create nearly 4,000 jobs and add £1 billion to the Scottish economy by 2020. It also said not taking action to reduce the tax would cost the country’s economy up to £68 million in lost tourism every year.

Derek Provan, CEO of AGS Airports, which owns Aberdeen International and Glasgow airports, added: “Over the course of the past year alone, we have seen the withdrawal by airlines of almost 30 routes from Aberdeen and Glasgow airports because of Air Passenger Duty.”

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