SCOTTISH Tories were accused of failing to be a strong opposition yesterday as they backed government plans to scrap air passenger duty (APD) on long-haul flights.

Finance spokesman Murdo Fraser said the move would encourage airlines “to put on new direct long-haul flights from Scotland”.

“This is a win-win,” he said. “It makes things more convenient for travellers, it helps with our carbon footprint by reducing the number of connecting flights and it will boost tourism and trade.”

Powers over APD will come to Holyrood in 2018. Under the Tory plans the charge paid by travellers flying in other parts of the plane, such as business-class or first-class, would be halved while the levy on those in private jets or small charter aircraft that carry fewer than 19 passengers would remain unchanged.

The Scottish Government wants to cut APD by 50 per cent for all passengers, on both long and short-haul flights, before abolishing the charge altogether.

Labour transport spokesman Neil Bibby said: “This Brexit-inspired U-turn makes a mockery of Ruth Davidson’s claims to be a strong opposition six months after the Scottish Parliament elections. Cutting air passenger duty won’t make Scotland any fairer or any greener.”

John Finnie, the Scottish Greens’ transport spokesperson, said: “The Tories continue to have their heads in the clouds, dreaming up new ways to give tax cuts to the richest and to big businesses. Rather than subsidising the airline industry we should be making a genuine investment in transport.”

Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie also attacked the “latest U-turn from the Scottish Conservatives”, claiming the party had now abandoned the centre ground of politics and was moving to the right.

Edinburgh Airport chief executive Gordon Dewar welcomed the Conservative plan to scrap APD for most long-haul travellers, saying: “This is a positive step.”