Our analysis shows SNP air tax cut would benefit richest 10% of households four times as much as poorest 10%

New figures produced today (25 April) by the Scottish Greens show that the richest 10% of households stand to gain four times as much from the 50% cut to APD than the poorest 10%.

The Green group of MSPs, who were elected on a manifesto commitment to retain Air Passenger Duty, will abstain in today’s Holyrood vote allowing the Air Departure Tax (Scotland) Bill to proceed to the amendment stage, so they can attempt a major overhaul with alternative tax proposals that have “social, environmental and genuine economic benefits”. 

The party’s finance and economy spokesperson, Patrick Harvie MSP will highlight in the debate how ministers have sat back as fares for other modes of transport continue to rise and also make clear that neither the environmental nor the economic case for the proposals have been made.

Glasgow MSP, Patrick Harvie said:

“It’s absurd that the SNP’s plan to cut aviation tax is being debated right before a debate on Earth Hour, where some of their MSPs will be patting each other on the back for their environmental credentials. But that’s not the only contradiction in this debate.

“The SNP is proposing a tax break for the only transport industry that is already free of fuel duty. They’re happy to see people’s daily train and bus fares rise, but they’re trying to convince us we’ll all be better off if occasional holiday flights are a few pounds cheaper. They say they’ll belatedly carry out an economic analysis instead of relying on the industry’s spin, but they’ve already decided what the tax policy will be, before those facts are in.

“And they seem utterly unwilling to acknowledge the data we do have about the impact of their policy – this tax break will overwhelmingly benefit the small minority of high income households who fly far more than most of us. In effect this tax will take cash from public purse and hand it to the wealthiest; just the kind of thing the SNP rightly condemn the Tories for doing at Westminster.

“The government is proposing this law to create a tax that it basically doesn’t think should exist, so there’s no wonder that their policy is so confused.

“This Bill can be fixed though – Greens will propose amendments which place duties on Ministers to achieve social, environmental and genuine economic benefits instead of simply doing the aviation industry’s bidding. We’ll let the Bill proceed to the amendment stage, but if those changes aren’t made we can’t support the Bill in its current form.”


Figures from Civil Aviation Authority passenger survey. Analysis for Scottish Green MSPs by the Fellow Traveller project. A 50% cut in APD in 2018/19 would cost the public finances £163m. Of that £163m, over one fifth (21%) - £33.5m - will go to UK leisure passengers in the richest 10% of Scottish households. Comparison with leisure passengers from the lowest 10% of households below.

Total tax giveaway to UK leisure passengers, £89,669,000

Richest 10% households, 37%, £33,461,000

Richest 30% households, 68%, £60,846,000

Poorest 10% households, 10%, £8,564,000