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7 May 2019, 07:16
Scottish Government plans to cut a flight tax will face a vote in parliament as Labour push for the SNP policy to be scrapped.
The Scottish Government has proposed cutting Air Departure Tax (ADT) by half, but after declaring a climate emergency last week, Nicola Sturgeon appeared to soften her stance on the flagship policy and boosted opposition hopes it could be abandoned.
Now Labour announced it will force a vote on the plans to cut ADT, urging the Scottish Government to drop what it describes as "a £150 million tax cut that benefits the richest the most and increases emissions".
Labour transport spokesman Colin Smyth said: "Like the rest of the world, Scotland needs to face up to the climate emergency our planet faces. That's why the misguided policy of cutting air departure tax needs to go.
"Nicola Sturgeon joined Labour in declaring a climate emergency - but as it stands her flagship policy would further contribute to climate change and only make it worse.
"The last thing our public services need are more cuts, the last thing our planet needs is more emissions and the last thing our society needs is more inequality.
"So it would be ludicrous to press on with a £150 million tax cut that benefits the richest the most and increases emissions.
"Holyrood can take the first step towards facing up to the scale of the climate crisis, by uniting and rejecting this policy."
At First Minister's Questions on Wednesday, Labour and the Scottish Greens argued the reduced levy must be shelved if the Government was serious about tackling climate change after committing to cut greenhouse gas emissions in Scotland to net zero by 2045, in line with advice from the Committee on Climate Change.
The First Minister's spokesman said afterwards that all policies will now be looked at regarding enhanced targets proposed for climate change legislation going through Holyrood, including the proposal to replace the current air passenger duty with a 50% lower air departure tax.
Asked directly if the proposed cut in the levy could be dropped, the spokesman said: "That policy, along with a whole raft of relevant policies that impact on emissions and climate change targets, will be evaluated and re-evaluated in terms of where we need to get to."
Ahead of this week's vote, Scottish Liberal Democrat energy spokesman Liam McArthur MSP said: "The SNP have been in the pocket of the aviation industry for years. When Liberal Democrats asked what the evidence was for abolishing Air Passenger Duty, Keith Brown referred us to a report on the Easyjet website commissioned by four airlines.
"If the SNP is serious about upgrading our planet's predicament to a climate emergency then it must finally abandon this £250 million tax cut for airline companies.
"Passenger numbers are going up and up already. This money should be going towards our schools, hospitals and making the changes needed to our transport system that can help save our planet.
It is time these priorities got the first class treatment instead."