Newcastle Airport concern over Scottish Independence vote

Newcastle International Airport The Scottish government is proposing to halve airport passenger duty rates

A vote for Scottish independence could mean Newcastle Airport losing thousands of passengers a year, it is claimed.

Airport operators say they are concerned by the Scottish government's plan to halve airport passenger duty (APD) before abolishing it.

They are worried passengers will head north to get the cheapest flights.

Pro-independence group Business For Scotland says the North East would benefit from increased investment if Scotland abolished APD.

Airport Passenger Duty is a tax levied on air passengers leaving UK airports. For short haul flights each passenger is charged £13, and £69 for longer flights.

If an independent Scotland abolished APD, it is estimated that a family of four on a flight to the US could save £276 on their air fare.

Analysis

Airport bosses in Newcastle are looking nervously at what happened to Belfast International Airport when the Republic of Ireland abolished airport passenger duty charges.

Uel Holly from Belfast International Airport said: "We're losing 1.5m passengers a year who are travelling to Dublin and that is obviously having an impact on the air transport sector in Northern Ireland".

In 2011 the UK government allowed the Northern Ireland Assembly to abolish airport passenger duty charges on long haul flights leaving Northern Ireland in response to what happened south of the border.

Newcastle Airport is hoping that if Scotland votes for independence and abolishes APD charges the UK government would take a similar measure in order to protect their business and one of the North East's most vital transport hubs.

Newcastle Airport planning director Graeme Mason said: "Customers are very mobile; they'll shop around for the cheapest flight and they'll travel quite long distances to get those flights."

The airport wants the UK government to offer assurances that it would step in to help the airport should Scotland vote for independence in September.

Mr Mason said: "There are a number of options open to the government. They could abolish APD altogether, or they can match any reductions made by Scotland.

"But if they don't do this the North of England is going to be at a serious disadvantage to the rest of Scotland."

Ivan Mckee, of Business For Scotland, said abolishing airport passenger duty in Scotland would benefit the North of England.

"Scotland is doing what it should be doing; we're bringing ourselves into line with other countries across Europe who have much lower levels of air passenger duty than we currently have.

"It's the best thing for the Scottish economy to do, and a growing Scottish economy would be good for the north east of England," he said.

Graeme Mason Graeme Mason is concerned that a change to airport passenger duty would see passengers head north

Aviation minster Robert Goodwill said an independent Scotland would not be able to reduce APD rates by the amount it had suggested.

A Treasury spokesman added: "The government has announced it will provide support for regional airports such as Newcastle with the Regional Air Connectivity Fund, which will encourage new routes from regional airports."

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