A NEW report released today reveals the under-threat aviation industry is worth £4 billion a year to Scotland’s economy.

It also highlights the importance of the sector to the business community. The report comes as the industry has been ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic, putting thousands of jobs at risk.

The importance of domestic and international travel to economic prospects of individual businesses and the wider economy is shown in a report from WPI Strategy, one of the UK’s leading political communications consultancies.

It reveals the majority of UK business leaders see air travel as key to their future economic prospects and would return to the skies if quarantine measures were eased.

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The report says that before the outbreak of the pandemic, the total cost of domestic aviation in the UK was about £15bn. Proportionate to passenger numbers, the impact of domestic aviation on GDP was £4bn in Scotland and London, compared to £2bn in Northern Ireland; and £1bn in the north-west of England, £700 million in the south-west; £500m in the Midlands and £300m in the north-east. According to new polling of 515 business leaders by Survation contained within the report, 64% of UK business leaders see domestic and international travel as key to their future prospects.

A total of 48% thought travel and quarantine restrictions were the single biggest barrier to business air travel.

Some 71% said the removal of travel restrictions would increase their confidence when travelling and 76% believed that airport testing for coronavirus would increase confidence when travelling.

SNP transport spokesman Gavin Newlands, the MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire North, said: “The report is confirmation, if any were needed, of the huge economic benefit of regional connectivity regional airports to Scotland.

“The vital contribution of airports like Glasgow in my Paisley and Renfrewshire North constituency cannot be understated.

“Since the start of the pandemic, I have called on the UK Government to make good on their promise and support the aviation industry to protect 1000s of jobs and time is fast running out for a credible package of support to be delivered.”

Marshall Dallas, chief executive, of the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, added: “Conferences bring people together from all over the world to collaborate, to exchange ideas and to drive positive change.

“A significant number of conference delegates reach Edinburgh by flight, from UK and global destinations, making air travel absolutely vital in facilitating these meetings. We strongly support the option of airport testing, which will undoubtedly have less of an impediment to our clients’ conferences, than ongoing quarantine regulations.”

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The UK Government last week announced the creation of new Global Travel Taskforce to support the travel industry and the safe recovery of international travel.”

Robert Sinclair, chief executive of London City Airport – a major destination for Scottish business travellers, welcomed the creation of the task force but called on it to move quickly to get business air travel up and running again.

Supported by a range of industry and political voices, he urged the task force to move with the utmost speed to set out a clear roadmap for the introduction of a testing regime which would ultimately lead to the elimination of quarantine.

Sinclair said: “It is paramount that the Global Travel Taskforce both acknowledges how fundamental business travel is and moves quickly to introduce a roadmap for aviation which sets out how a testing regime can be implemented quickly.

“Doing so could deliver a much-needed shot in the arm for business air travel, boosting economic growth across every region and every sector.”