Friday, 3 June 2016

#APD cut is lose, lose - for public services and for climate action

#WED2016 It is World Environment Day on Sunday 5 June. A good day for the Scottish Government to cancel plans to cut Air Passenger Duty.

UNISON Scotland today urged the Scottish Government to prioritise protecting public services by axing its plans to first cut APD by 50%, then eventually abolish the tax.

In our response to the Scottish Government consultation on APD, closing today, we argue that Ministers should be defending public services and working for social justice by opposing austerity and tackling inequalities. Climate change action is essential and should support these goals. 

Instead, this policy proposal would benefit the wealthiest, while increasing aviation emissions. A lose, lose proposal for Scottish public services and for protecting our world for future generations.

If Scotland is to meet its proudly proclaimed as world leading climate change targets, a cut to APD makes no sense. The Scottish Government should think again.

APD brings an estimated £230-£300m a year to the Scottish Government. Cutting it takes that money away from essential services likes schools and hospitals. That £300m, Stop Climate Chaos Scotland has calculated, could employ 11,507 nurses, or fund a year of childcare for 54,011 children, nearly every child who will be born in Scotland this year. It could install solar panels on 60,000 homes, convert every bus in Edinburgh to full electric, or restore 57% of Scotland‟s degraded peatlands, saving up to 1.4m tonnes of CO2 emissions.

UNISON is a member of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland and supports the SCCS response to the consultation. 

The key points from that are:

  • The proposed 50% reduction in Air Passenger Duty (APD) is inconsistent with Scotland’s climate commitments. The Scottish Government’s assessment shows it may increase emissions by up to 60,000 tonnes CO2e per year, at a time when we need action to decrease, not increase, emissions from air travel.
  •  Aviation is already significantly under-taxed through exemption from fuel duty and VAT. This is why APD was introduced. The UK aviation industry continues to benefit from tax exemptions of several billion pounds per year.
  • There is no independent evidence that cutting APD would provide a net benefit to the economy. In fact, cutting APD could result in a net loss of income resulting from reduced domestic tourism.
  • There is no independent evidence that APD is a significant barrier to increasing Scotland’s international connectivity. The Government’s own analysis of a 50% cut suggests that more than half of the passenger increase would come from people flying with the UK, where rail alternatives exist.
  • Cutting APD, which brings an estimated £230-£300m per year to the Scottish Government, at a time of austerity cuts and whilst funding is urgently needed to facilitate the low carbon transition, directly contradicts the Scottish Government’s social and environmental goals.

The Scottish Government should now cancel its dangerous and widely criticised policy on APD, maintain the overall tax take from APD at existing levels and bring forward new proposals that reduce climate emissions from the aviation sector.

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