Scotland’s International Accessibility
Good international air links are vital for Scottish business and inbound tourism. Increasing congestion at Heathrow is an incentive to develop more direct flights from Scotland to international destinations eliminating the need to transfer through London airports. Devolution of Air Passenger Duty (APD) will allow variation in this tax to encourage use of direct international flights.
However, Scottish airports suffer from poor surface transport access, judged by international standards. It is the norm at major airports in Europe (and England) to be able to transfer from the airport terminal to the domestic rail network for onward travel to anywhere in the country. Bus links to city centres are adequate for local travellers but do not meet the expectations of international travellers with luggage, and do not give quality national connectivity provided by the rail network.
Edinburgh Airport now has the Edinburgh Tram with interchange to the rail network at Edinburgh Park, Haymarket and (soon) Edinburgh Gateway. It is important that through tram/train tickets should be introduced for travel to and from Edinburgh Airport from staffed ScotRail stations.
Funding for a rail or tram link to Glasgow Airport was included in the Glasgow City Deal. It is important that this is designed to connect seamlessly with the rail network direct from the airport terminal building.
The railway from Aberdeen via Dyce to Inverurie is being upgraded to support a frequent train service. This is an opportunity to develop a more regular minibus link from Dyce station to Aberdeen Airport, less than 2 miles away by road.
Domestic flights to Scottish Islands have an important role in providing connectivity for time critical travel. The Highlands and north-east of Scotland also depend on flights for quick links to London. But for shorter distance domestic flights of 400 miles or less, development of High Speed Rail is an environmentally more acceptable travel option. Flights from Edinburgh and Glasgow to Manchester (right) save little time over rail which can give a centre-to-centre journey time of 3 hours.
There are over 100 flights daily from Edinburgh and Glasgow to London. This could be reduced substantially if HS2 cuts rail journey times to 3 hours, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and also liberating landing slots at Heathrow.The Scottish policy for Air Passenger Duty should maintain APD on domestic flights of less than 400 miles (except for island journeys) to avoid subsidising air travel at the expense of more environmentally friendly rail transport.