The news of the new direct flights from Scotland to Qatar which start later this month is very welcome and brings the number of new direct services starting this month to six, adding to the new services to Chicago, Philadelphia, Zurich, Verona and the Dominican Republic that have already been announced. This growth, which is worth hundreds of millions of pounds to the Scottish economy over the next three years, is a reflection of the much higher international profile Scotland has enjoyed due to the Independence Referendum.
It however only reflects a tiny percentage of what would be possible with the full powers of Independence, that would allow slashing of Air Passenger duty, ending the
“Double Whammy” effect every Scot suffers as they have to pay Air Passenger Duty on flights, once on the connecting flight to London and again on their main flight to their real destination. This ” poll tax of the skies” combined by the lack of direct flights to Scotland costs the Scottish Tourist Industry hundreds of millions of pounds every single year and causes the loss of potentially thousands of new jobs. An Independent Scottish Government, recognizing the economic and tourism benefits associated with easy air access to our country could make improved links a priority, in ways Westminster would never consider. We should be looking to have the range of services considered normal by countries of similar size to Scotland like Norway, Denmark or indeed Ireland.
Easy air communications are a top priority when companies are looking at developing new manufacturing locations. A country like Scotland, with our excellent education system, our skilled workforces is missing a trick by being letdown by our underdeveloped aviation industry, being used as feeder services for international services from London should no longer be tolerated.
There is no doubt the forthcoming referendum has had a very positive impact on Scottish tourism by creating widespread international interest and an appetite to know more about this small, ancient nation that now seeks to regain full Independence. In the last year there has probably been more articles written in the international media about Scotland than have been written in the last twenty years. Having spent the last few months in the USA I have met a lot of American and Canadians of Scottish descent who are planning trips to Scotland in September, even though they have no vote, they are anxious not to miss the Party if Scotland votes yes. It probably helps that the Ryder Cup is taking place around the same time. The World’s biggest party and the World’s greatest golfers playing on a picturesque Scottish course is a powerful combination for expat Scots.
Like so much in the Independence debate there are positives here for EWNI as well, the London airports are congested and a significant growth in direct Scottish flights could greatly aid in reducing that congestion. There would also be significant environmental benefits in such a policy.
Yes it is great that new direct flights are being created but we could do so much more with the full powers of Independence that other countries of similar size to Scotland enjoy and utilize to bring benefits across their entire economies.
On the 18th September the people of Scotland will determine whether this higher profile is something they want to continue into the future or whether it is just a temporary boost that will disappear if we hand back control to Westminister.