AIRPORT bosses have reaffirmed their determination to secure Government action on flying tax changes as they seek to create “a level playing field” between England and Scotland.

Newcastle Airport officials want a UK-wide 25 per cent cut in air passenger duty (APD) by 2019 to make post- Brexit operations smoother and ease potentially heightened competition from north of the border.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who wants to replace the levy in Scotland, earlier this week gave her backing to nationwide changes during a visit to the North-East.

Loading article content

However, with Scotland’s plans disrupted by legal issues, Graeme Mason, Newcastle Airport’s planning and corporate affairs director, has called on Chancellor Philip Hammond to grasp the nettle and use his forthcoming Budget to set rates for April 1, 2019 onwards.

Mr Mason said such decisive action would protect existing services from Scottish competition, make better use of the UK’s airport capacity and help bases compete with European rivals benefiting from lower or no aviation tax.

He told The Northern Echo: “Given the challenges with the implementation of APD north of the border, and recognising our desire for a level playing field between England and Scotland, we have proposed a 25 per cent cut to demonstrate we are all open for business in the post- Brexit world.

“We were very encouraged by the support the First Minister offered for this proposal.

“It is now for the Government to set the agenda and announce reductions in APD across the whole of the UK in the Budget.”

Speaking at a North East England Chamber of Commerce event in Gateshead on Monday, Ms Sturgeon also turned the spotlight on Mr Hammond, saying any APD changes would receive her support.

She also said the answer to fears over amendments to Scottish flying taxes was not to remove powers north of the border.

Ms Sturgeon added: “I would be strongly supportive of any calls for APD to be devolved to the North-East.

“I understand the concerns that are raised in other parts of the UK but the solution is not to deprive Scotland of the ability to try to increase our competitiveness.

“It is to give other regions the same ability.

“In the meantime, if your proposal was one to go forward, you could be assured of Scottish Government support.”

The Scottish Government proposes to replace APD with a devolved air departure tax.

However, that has hit issues after it was found that plans to continue exempting journeys from airports in the Highlands and the country’s islands require EU approval under state aid rules.

It is understood getting such approval could take longer than Brexit.