Yesterday in the House of Commons, a motion was brought forward by the SNP to revoke Tory plans which effectively put an end to tax-free shopping for overseas visitors to the UK.
Recently, I spoke with one of my Baillieston constituents who hammered home to me just how damaging this move is, explaining how badly shops at Glasgow Airport where she works will be affected. Once air travel resumes after the pandemic, many of those airport jobs will be at serious risk because of these plans.
The SNP’s Shadow Transport Secretary, Gavin Newlands MP, has repeatedly raised concerns over the plans to hit duty-free shops that help pay for wider operations at a time when airports are already on their knees.
Business leaders in Scotland - including the Scottish Chambers of Commerce and the Scottish Retail Consortium - have warned that the pandemic has been “hugely challenging” for businesses, and that they are “deeply concerned” at the decision to abolish the VAT-free schemes.
The UK government’s own consultation on the issue revealed there was almost unanimous support for the continued operation of the VAT Retail Export Scheme and the airside extra-statutory concession scheme – but the Tories have forced ahead their plan to scrap both schemes.
Business leaders have warned that around 40,000 jobs could be at risk. The tourism, retail and hospitality sectors – essential to Scotland’s economy - have been acutely affected by the pandemic and UK government decisions. Any further harm inflicted upon them by Tory policy could cripple these industries and their supply chains.
I made my opposition to the plans known to the government during the debate. Watch my full speech below.