A north-east Tory claimed the Scottish Government’s reputation has been damaged after it emerged ministers sent letters committing themselves to abolishing Air Departure Tax (ADT).
The letters by Finance Secretary Derek Mackay and Transport Secretary Michael Matheson were sent in the months before the government abandoned the flagship policy.
Alexander Burnett, the Tory MSP for Aberdeenshire West, said ministers had some “serious explaining” to do to north-east businesses and Aberdeen airport who were angered by the U-turn.
The letters, published by the government under Freedom of Information legislation, showed Mr Mackay wrote to a route development official in Dublin in June last year.
In the correspondence, the Finance Secretary said the Scottish Government “remains committed to reducing the burden of ADT by 50% once it has been introduced and abolishing it when resources allow”.
In February last year, Mr Mackay made exactly the same commitment in a letter to the Norwegian Air Shuttle.
He also promised ministers would do all they could to grow Scotland’s international routes.
A letter from Mr Matheson sent in November last year in response to a member of the public’s concerns about the withdrawal of Norwegian Air Shuttle flights between Scotland and New York also committed to the abolition of ADT.
Mr Matheson noted that taxes had a “negative impact” on airlines’ ambitions in the UK.
Despite the assurances, last month Nicola Sturgeon abandoned plans to ditch the levy claiming they were incompatible with the government’s attempts to tackle climate change by reducing emissions.
The about-turn angered businesses and airports, including Aberdeen, who had seen the policy as key to their plans to attract more routes to Scotland and improve connectivity.
Mr Burnett said: “SNP ministers have some serious explaining to do to the business community and to airports like Aberdeen.
“For years, they have talked up this policy to scrap ADT and grow routes to boost the economy, yet they have now performed a screeching U-turn.
“This will only serve to further damage the reputation of the SNP government in the eyes of business leaders – and cast doubt on any future promises the SNP make.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “There is a global climate emergency and all governments, businesses and communities need to increase their action to tackle greenhouse gas emissions.
“We have taken the difficult decision that reducing Air Departure Tax is no longer compatible with our climate responsibilities and acted accordingly.”