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A Trading Nation

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 30th May 2019.

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Photo of Gordon Lindhurst Gordon Lindhurst Conservative

I welcome any positive growth, such as the growth to which the minister refers, but we must look at the overall picture and recognise where we are missing the mark and missing a step.

The SNP Government recently announced a dramatic U-turn on the plans to cut air departure tax. As a representative of the capital and the Lothian region, I am acutely aware of that and of Edinburgh Airport Ltd’s response to the Government’s position. The response rightly questioned the reactionary—perhaps populist—move to scrap the plans, considering that the Government had made a promise and that that promise had just been repeated.

Last week, I questioned the minister on that. I highlighted page 73 in “A Trading Nation”, which stresses the importance of connecting Scotland to international markets through long-haul flights, including via Edinburgh airport. As other members do, I recognise the necessity and importance of tackling climate change. That is one of the reasons why I question that move by the Government, because it will result in an increase in passengers on polluting short-haul flights to Scotland from hubs including London, Amsterdam, Dublin and other places to which the long-haul flights go instead of coming directly to Scotland. Not having those direct international links will dampen growth prospects for Scotland and cut us out of opportunities.

We wish in the coming years to seize opportunities for many sectors and to boost exports, so it is disappointing that we are having this debate within 24 hours of the SNP Government yet again announcing plans to drag us back into another divisive referendum—in this case, an independence referendum. That will create a further difficulty and an air of uncertainty for businesses, when we need to embrace the opportunities that are opening up for the country. The minister needs to answer the question whether the Government will focus on those opportunities for Scotland and see how we can move things forward, or focus on what some people would call the indyref obsession.