Edinburgh campaign, SEAT, shows why cutting Scottish APD risks harming people’s health and the environment
The community campaign, SEAT (Stop Edinburgh Airspace Trial) has set out why it is opposed to the Scottish Government intention to cut APD by 50%. Edinburgh airport is delighted that APD might be reduced, so increasing demand for more flights (= more profit). But those badly affected by aircraft noise are very concerned about the increase in the problems they suffer. Air Passenger Duty is needed, to at least partly make up for the tax breaks the aviation industry benefits from by paying no VAT, and no fuel duty. There is no VAT on purchase or servicing of aircraft. Many airports are owned by off-shore corporations, that pay minimal (or no) UK company taxed. Flying is already artificially cheap, and even cheaper, if the only tax is halved. While the Scottish government supports high speed rail links to London, which would cut carbon emissions if rail is used instead of air, they also aim to increase the number of flights, by cutting APD. That means significantly higher Scottish CO2 emissions. SEAT speaks up for people negatively impacted by aviation. The impacts on health from plane noise are now well known, and they are a cost to society. SEAT says cutting APD is unwise, and means putting profit for big business before people’s health, or the environment. Consultation ends on 3rd June.
Is The Aviation Industry Taking Us All For A Ride?
3rd May 2016
by SEAT (Stop Edinburgh Airspace Trial)
Edinburgh Airport has announced further expansion in the expectation that Air Passenger Duty (APD) will be reduced and so has guaranteed further noise and pollution misery for people living near the airport.
Today, thousands of people living in the ever-growing noise shadow of Edinburgh Airport were rudely awoken yet again at 6am as a plane roared over their home. The loud and intrusive noise disturbance then continued every few minutes, waking their children, causing stress, upset and disturbed sleep.
There will typically be over 70 planes out of Edinburgh Airport today and every day causing similar disruption to the lives of ordinary people who could have had no idea when they bought their homes that they would wake up one day and find themselves suddenly living with the nightmare of a busy flight path above their heads.
Why? Because, since last summer, Edinburgh Airport has been changing the way it uses the sky above us. They did not tell anybody, there was no consultation, and for months they even denied it was happening, instead they accused residents of being “noise sensitive”.
While the flight trial of the so called TUTUR path caused so much uproar that it had to be halted early, other changes to flight paths continue to be made, with more and more people being adversely affected by the noise and other environmental damage.
These changes include use of the airspace almost indistinguishable from that of the failed TUTUR route.
Aircraft Noise debate at Westminster
Sadly, this is nothing new – anyone who watched the debate at Westminster on 20th April or reviewed the Hansard record
will have heard Tom Tugendhat MP for Tonbridge and Malling comment on his experience in 2013, when changes were made to the airspace around Gatwick, that the first thing the airport did was to deny that anything had changed. As he said about the airport’s behaviour at the time: “….it was that deception that did the most damage.”
It is a chillingly similar story for local residents across West Lothian and beyond, some living more than 10 miles away from Edinburgh Airport’s runway, who until last year had no problem with aircraft noise, and who now find themselves assailed by unbearable and frequent noise on a daily basis. Many of these residents even took the time and trouble to contact their local MPs to ask them to attend the debate and speak up on behalf of their constituents. Curiously, not one of them did.
Instead, a Highland MP was drafted in to speak in the debate, who failed to mention how bad a neighbour Edinburgh Airport is, and who strayed so far from the matter in hand that he had to be reminded by the Chairman of the subject of the debate that day.
When, every day, so many thousands of ordinary people are suffering in their homes, there is no place for petty political points scoring. Why couldn’t our local MPs Martyn Day, Hannah Bardell and Michelle Thomson attend that debate?
Martyn Day MP says he was attending a meeting about fracking – a devolved matter.
Hannah Bardell MP says she was either too unwell or out of the country or both so she also could not attend the debate.
Michelle Thomson MP said that she could not find any communications from her constituents about the debate.
Excuses on a par with “the dog ate my homework”, and it is inexplicable that the Scottish MP who did speak at the debate did not appear to have been briefed about the current difficulties with Edinburgh Airport.
Air Passenger Duty – and why cutting it will be a costly mistake – economically, fiscally and environmentally.
While our Westminster politicians cannot attend important debates on the matter of aviation noise and its effect on Local Communities, the Scottish Government is currently consulting on proposals to reduce Air Passenger Duty, with the express aim of encouraging more people to fly:
When compared to other forms of transport, notably rail, air travel is massively polluting and costly to our economy – no other industrial sector would be able to continue polluting our environment and yet still enjoy tax breaks like these:
Airlines pay no tax or duty on fuel.
There is no VAT on aeroplanes or the servicing of aeroplanes.
Airports enjoy the privilege of duty free shopping.
Many airports pay no corporation tax, being owned by firms of offshore venture capitalists.
How can a Government cut APD to encourage more flying and still meet our carbon emissions targets?
In short, it can’t. And the government knows this. On 21st March, The Government’s own Infrastructure Minister, Keith Brown MSP, said of the planned project to upgrade the high speed rail links between Scotland and London:
“High speed rail will bring billions of pounds worth of benefit to Scotland’s economy …..and benefits for the environment. This plan will bring to life our target of three hours or less Glasgow and Edinburgh -London train journeys, which will lead to a significant move from air to rail, bringing big reductions in carbon emissions.”
Completely contradictory to the simultaneous Scottish government proposal to reduce APD by 50% to encourage more passengers to fly, and therefore create more pollution and CO2.
From Edinburgh Airport, every day, there are over 50 return flights to London. Encouraging all these passengers to switch from air to rail would result in an immediate reduction in our carbon emissions.
What is the Scottish Government policy on tax cuts for the wealthy?
The airports will herald a cut in APD as great for their industry, but in reality, cutting this relatively small supplement on domestic air travel from £13 to £6.50 (the equivalent of the cost of a sandwich and a drink at the airport), will not make much of a difference to travellers – particularly the frequent business flyers who fill the seats on domestic flights.
In a period of austerity, when the majority of airline passengers are also among the wealthiest people in our country, it is simply wrong to contemplate cutting APD when that cash is so badly needed elsewhere.
The cost of cutting APD to our economy:
We have a tourism deficit in Scotland that already costs our economy £1.7 billion. The additional cost to our economy of cutting APD is about £400 per passenger – that is the amount of additional tourist spend that will be taken out of Scotland and spent elsewhere.
That is £400 lost to Scotland for every airline passenger in addition to the loss of tax revenue. Edinburgh Airport likes to trumpet its ever increasing passenger numbers – over 10 million people used the airport last year.
Environmental damage and how keeping, or increasing APD could help:
With the clean up after this Winter’s life-changing floods still continuing, the effects of climate change caused by greenhouse gases have been clear to us all – how many “100 year” weather events will we have to live through before our government finally takes meaningful action to prevent further damage to our environment? APD is one of the few levers available to Government to influence this vital area.
Airports are already using this possible change to APD as justification for more expansion – at Edinburgh Airport, “growth” is used as a euphemism for altering flight paths; and overflying those tens of thousands of people in their homes from 6am and long into the night; most of whom have never been affected by aircraft noise before. These people’s lives and homes are being blighted. Edinburgh Airport can grow without creating new and very damaging flight paths – while their passenger numbers are up, they are operating thousands of fewer flights now than they did in 2007.
The cost to health of exposure to aircraft noise is well documented
It is unwise of Government to promote unfettered business expansion to the detriment and cost of many. Reducing APD is a tax cut our country cannot afford. It is profit over people regardless of the impact on health or the environment. Further, it is a misguided attempt to woo big business and will surely backfire on any government that chooses to implement it.
A resident of West Lothian said:
“The Scottish Government must do the right thing for Scotland – our health and environment deserve better than this insidious subsidy for big business. Cutting APD is the wrong policy at the wrong time and our new government must think again.”
We call on all our elected representatives to properly represent the interests of their electorate who are suffering every day due to the shabby conduct of Edinburgh Airport.
Frankly, the Scottish people deserve better than this.
SNP to launch consultation on plan to cut Scottish air passenger duty by 50%, starting April 2018
The Scottish National Party (SNP) say they will cut Air Passenger Duty (APD) by 50% between April 2018 and 2021, if they win the Holyrood election on 5th May 2016. There is now a public consultation on this proposal. Control of APD is due to be devolved to Holyrood when the Scotland Bill becomes law, so it is no longer administered by the UK government. The Scottish Labour party has said a reduction would most benefit wealthier people, and should not go ahead. The majority of flights are taken by more affluent people, who can afford multiple short breaks as well as long haul holidays. Details of the APD consultation were announced by Finance Secretary John Swinney during a visit to Edinburgh Airport. The 50% cut in APD would start in April 2018, and be done in stages till 2021. The industry would like cutting APD to increase the amount of profitable high spending tourists to Scotland. They hope this would boost jobs and bring economic benefits. The amount of Scottish money taken out of the country on even cheaper flights is not counted, nor the jobs lost as Scots spend their holiday money abroad. Climate campaigners fear the net effect will be higher carbon emissions from Scottish aviation, if the ticket price is cut.
Public Consultation on Air Passenger Duty in Scotland
The Scottish Government published the following two public consultation papers on 14 March 2016:
- ‘A consultation on a Scottish replacement to APD’ – this consultation seeks views on how a replacement to APD in Scotland should be structured and operated in order to help generate sustainable growth through improving Scotland’s international air connectivity;
- ‘A Scottish replacement to APD: Strategic Environmental Assessment Screening and Scoping Report’ – this consultation seeks views on the initial findings and proposed scope and methodology of the Strategic Environmental Assessment that the Scottish Government is undertaking, in recognition of the important environmental issues that need to be considered.
Both consultations are open for response from the public for a 12 week period, closing on Friday 3 June 2016, and can also be found on the Scottish Government’s Citizen Spaceonline consultation platform.
In addition to responding to both consultations, the Scottish Government encourages respondents with any further ideas or recommendations to join the conversation in its online discussion forum at: https://ideas.scotland.gov.uk/air-passenger-duty. The discussion forum is open for submissions until Friday 8 April 2016.