I thank the cabinet secretary for advance sight of his statement.
The Scottish Government’s policy of reducing air departure tax is a long-standing one, and our tourism industry has eagerly awaited its delivery. As the cabinet secretary knows, the policy has the support of the Scottish Conservatives, so there is a clear majority in the Parliament to deliver it. It is therefore disappointing to hear that the Scottish Government seems to be trying to weasel out of its manifesto commitment to deliver the policy, which means that we might miss out on the boost that it would give the Scottish economy. Many in Scotland’s tourism sector will feel badly let down by the announcement, which a cynic might conclude has more to do with politics and with the Scottish National Party’s desire to pally up with the Greens again to get its budget through Parliament than with any legal technicalities.
I will ask the cabinet secretary two questions. First, as the Highlands and Islands APD exemption has existed without challenge for the past 16 years, why does the Scottish Government believe that there is suddenly, at this convenient point, an insurmountable legal problem that means that devolution of the tax might have to be delayed? Secondly, will he confirm for the record that it remains the Scottish Government’s policy to deliver an ADT cut as a matter of principle, to help to grow the economy, even if he has today started to make excuses for why he cannot deliver it on time?