Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil is calling on the UK Government to extend the exemption of Air Passenger Duty (APD) to incoming flights to the islands.
Currently island communities are exempt from APD for flights from island airports to mainland Scotland but this does not include flights to the islands.
In a letter to Chancellor of the Exchequer, RT Hon Rishi Sunak MP ahead of the March 2020 budget, Mr MacNeil said the majority of passengers on flights to the islands are island-based and flights to the islands are the return leg of the journey.
Mr MacNeil said: “It is clear that it is accepted that the essential air services connecting the UK’s most remote communities are worthy of support, given that the exemption already applies for the outward journey, it is therefore a logical conclusion that such flights should be fully exempt from APD rather than only one half of the journey.”
The cost of extending the current exemption to incoming flights to the Highlands and Islands is estimated to be £3.25 million per year (250,000 return journeys x £13 tax).
In Wales this principle has already been accepted where passengers prior to December 2018 had to pay tolls to leave Wales but not to enter. This has now been abolished but continues in application of APD in Scotland.
An exemption for island air services is also consistent with environment objectives as air travel generates lower carbon emissions per passenger than ferry travel.
Full tax exemption for travel to the islands would also be consistent with policies in other countries such as France where flights to Corisca and overseas territories are exempt from the new air travel tax. In the Netherlands too, a new tax from 2021 will also exclude taxation on flights to overseas territories.