Scottish Conservative Councillors Call to Protect Highland and Island APD Exemption

On 25 June, Aberdeen Airport branded the Highland’s airports Air Passenger Duty exemption a “tax haven” and brazenly called for the APD exemption to be lifted to create fairness between Inverness and Aberdeen airports.

The APD exemption was brought in due to the remote geography of the Highlands and Islands and the lack of fast and accessible land connections, unlike that of Aberdeen with highspeed dual rail and road.

Cllr. Andrew Jarvie responded to these calls –

“Given that the SNP Government reneged on their manifesto promise to halve Air Passenger Duty in an announcement on 7 May, I knew it was only a matter of time until Highland airports’ APD exemption came under threat.”

“This tax exemption has completely transformed the Highland economy by banishing the idea that we are a million miles away from everything. I can leave my house, fly to London and arrive in the centre of London quicker than many people can commute by train in.”

“The exemption has been key for other airlines establishing more flights from Inverness, particularly those 6 daily flights to Amsterdam and Heathrow, meaning that you can fly from Inverness to any continent in the world on one ticket and stopover. This extraordinary connectivity gives our businesses and their customers seamless connectivity to trade and meet, whilst opening up our region to the literal world of tourism.”

“The exemption exists for our area primarily because of our geography and lack of fast, long distance ground links. It still takes about 8-11 hours by train to reach London.”

“It has taken nearly three decades of hard work to build the links which we have from Inverness, to the point now where Inverness has the UK’s fastest growth in domestic flights. BA now occasionally flies the largest aircraft the airport can take and this year saw the first new domestic flight which involved an overnight crew stop in 25 years.”

“After this announcement was made, myself and Cllr Mackie met with the Chief Executive of the Inverness Chamber of Commerce. It was so abundantly clear how hard they have worked to develop these links with partners and the enormous benefits it has for the local business community.”

“I strongly resent the notion which Aberdeen airport put forward.  They can make their case for exemption, but removing our exemption is not fair at all. Aberdeen airports’ backbone is the thousands upon thousands of offshore helicopter flights that we just do not have.”

“Despite this, there remains the ecological argument that the APD exemption is inherently polluting. If this were removed, and we lost our hub flights, then we would go back to doing what we all did only 3-4 years ago. Simply driving to Aberdeen or Edinburgh to fly, which is doubtlessly more polluting.”

Caithness Councillor and Scottish Conservative Transport Spokesman, Struan Mackie, added his support –

“By not levying Air Passenger Duty, travellers from across the Highlands and Islands are incentivised to choose air travel as close to home as possible. Something which has had a positive impact on the number of routes available from Inverness Airport over the last couple of years.”

“Inverness Airport in itself also acts as a transport hub for our region, promoting onward connections to London and Amsterdam to the rest of the world, giving real connectivity to island communities.”

“Commercial airlines operate on incredibly tight margins and removing an incentive that promotes connectivity across the Highlands and Islands would be a retrograde step and be a shock to business confidence in the aviation industry.”





In 2018, Aberdeen Airport handled just over 3,056,018 passengers and 91,279 aircraft movements, down 1.1%, with Inverness Airport handling 894,360 passengers and 29,690 aircraft movements, up 2.2%.

The three times daily outbound flights to Amsterdam and London Heathrow, by KLM and BA respectively, offers one-stop links to 180 global destinations.

KLM is part of the SkyTeam codeshare alliance allowing seamless transfers onto 18 other airlines, with BA and the oneworld alliance doing likewise with 11 airlines.

Link to original call to exemption end -