COME FLY WITH ME, BUT NOT TOO OFTEN

Parties plot to persuade public to attention to messages on climate change.

NOTEBOOK by Bill Heaney

Fewer people than ever attach any credibility to what politicians have to say.

The best strategy for launching any campaign these days appears be to leave the politicians on the side-lines and put a couple of cute looking, articulate children up front.

And to have them tug at the heartstrings of the electorate, most of whom don’t have clue about the impact – or projected impact – of issues such as climate change.

Trotting out children before the television cameras and media conferences, staged photo calls and scripted speeches written by spin doctors, are the recipe for success for these campaigns.

Never mind the actuality of the message you are pushing, feel the width of the pictures, which are destined to dress up the pages of the popular press next day.

Who pays for this? We do.

When Gordon Brown was Prime Minister, he was accused by his opponents of introducing stealth taxes, a whole raft of them including measures that would slow down climate change.

No one latched on to this apart from the usual suspects, the flower power hippy women and Green Party wallahs with beards, in tweed waistcoats and corduroy trousers.

Pressed at First Minister’s Questions in Holyrood last week, Nicola Sturgeon, in the wake of the widely publicised campaign on climate change, said the SNP would have to rethink their proposal to cut a hefty sum off the airline tax currently being paid at Scotland’s airports.

One of the children on the other side of the argument could have told her it would not be politically astute to do this, since it would encourage more people to fly on business trips and holidays.

And that was exactly what the ever growing climate change lobby didn’t want to see.

Now, predictably, the head of Scotland’s biggest airport has launched a stinging attack on the SNP Government over “failed promises” and “hypocrisy” after the pledge to cut airline taxes was dumped.

Edinburgh’s Gordon Dewar warned the move will damage Scotland’s global reputation and damage investment in jobs in the country after the planned cut in Air Departure Tax was formally dropped yesterday.

The pledge to cut ADT by 50% had been in the SNP’s manifesto for the 2016 elections and was at the heart of its economic blueprint for economic growth in the 2104 independence referendum.

But environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham announced ministers will commit to not proceeding with proposed reduction as the party faced pressure from Labour which has brought a vote at Holyrood on the issue tomorrow (Thursday).

“We’ve gone from personal commitments to all-out cancellation in the space of just two weeks, which shows just how reactionary this decision is,” Mr Dewar, chief executive at Edinburgh Airport, said.

“It does not show leadership and means airports and airlines have been led down a path of failed promises for three years by this Scottish Government.”

He added: “The Scottish Government continues to implement a successful cut in APD in Inverness which has delivered fantastic economic benefits, and persists on propping up a failing airport at Prestwick to the tune of £40 million and counting, so this is sheer hypocrisy.

“It also raises questions about continued support for our tourism sector when airlines have already walked away from Scotland due to this failure to deliver.”

The pledge to reduce ADT has already been delayed and was never likely to be introduced as it may jeopardise the SNP’s relationship with Patrick Harvie and his pro-independence Greens.

Dewar insisted that airlines had major inroads in cutting carbon emissions and said it was wrong to single out the airline industry.
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“It not only punishes families and those who work hard to afford a holiday by enforcing one of the highest aviation taxes anywhere in the world, but will restrict our future connectivity, investment into Scotland and job creation as we sacrifice Scotland’s international outlook,” he added.

But Ms Cunningham insisted that tough choices had to be made to tackle global warning.

” We are reviewing a range of policies across government to ensure that we can meet those targets.”

“Politicians across parliament and across the UK need to rise to the occasion. If we are all in agreement that the planet is facing a climate emergency, then we all need to do what is in the national – and indeed international – interest, and not just what suits party political purposes.”

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay said: “All parts of government and society have a contribution to make to meeting this challenge – and reducing Air Departure Tax is no longer compatible with more ambitious climate targets.

“We continue to support our tourism industry, which is going from strength to strength, and we will work with the sector to develop in a sustainable way. We welcome their efforts – and those of the aviation industry – to reduce carbon emissions.”

Labour leader Richard Lennon told parliament: “The Scottish Labour Party welcomes the commitment from the Scottish Government to meet ambitious climate change targets.

“It is the future of our planet and we need emergency action now. We also need to ensure that the transition to a net zero greenhouse gas economy is a just transition—one that is socially just and which benefits working people in Scotland.”

Frequent flyers for business and holidays will have to continue to pay Airline Departure Tax. Pictures by Bill Heaney

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