Nicola Sturgeon has indicated she is considering dropping the Scottish Government’s plans for a £150 million tax break for the airline industry.
The first minister signalled a U-turn on cuts to Air Departure Tax (ADT) in the wake of repeated urging to scrap her proposal on the grounds it would contribute to climate change.
North-east politicians have, however, warned abandoning the tax cut would be a “serious blow” to Aberdeen Airport and harm tourism.
Replacing Air Passenger Duty (APD) with a devolved ADT has been a flagship Scottish Government economic commitment for several years.
The government has said replacing APD would enable ministers to cut ADT by 50% before abolishing the tax altogether when resources allowed.
It has been argued the policy would boost international connectivity and allow new routes to be established.
But having declared a “climate emergency” and signed up to ambitious climate change targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2045, Ms Sturgeon is under pressure to ditch the plans.
The Scottish Government has already deferred the ADT’s introduction until after April 2020.
At first minister’s questions, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard described ADT cuts as a policy that “benefits the richest most and drives up emissions”.
“If she is serious about the climate emergency, will she, once and for all, drop her commitment to cut air departure tax?” Mr Leonard asked.
Ms Sturgeon replied saying that the “scale of the government’s ambition” when it comes to tackling climate change “means that we will need to reconsider policies across the range of our responsibilities”.
But the threat of an about-turn on the policy angered Colin Clark, Conservative MP for Gordon.
“If Nicola Sturgeon now abandons this pledge, it will come as a serious blow to Aberdeen Airport and to regional connectivity in the north-east,” Mr Clark said.
“The tourism sector will also suffer at a time when we are trying to diversify our economy.
“In the last few days the SNP has distanced itself from oil and gas and now threatens to ditch the cut to APD that is crucial to our connectivity.
“No one should be in any doubt the SNP do not give a jot for the north-east of Scotland.”
Aberdeen Airport owners, AGS Airports, said: “Together with the wider industry we share the UK Committee on Climate Change’s ambitions to bring emissions into line with the Paris Agreement.”