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SNP MEP Ian Hudghton has given a cautious welcome to new European proposals for a common set of rules on how airports can levy charges for their services.
The rules aim to ensure fair play in the airport industry and ensure that no individual airports take advantage of a dominant position in the market. Affected airports will have to comply with common rules on the way airport charges are collected, provision of information and transparency.
But the SNP MEP was concerned that the rules could harm smaller regional and local Scottish airports and put them at an unfair disadvantage. Mr Hudghton supported an amendment to raise the threshold for airports to be covered by the new rules to those handling over five million passengers a year, which would have the effect of excluding all Scottish airports other than Edinburgh and Glasgow from the proposals.
Speaking after the vote in Strasbourg, the SNP MEP and member of the European Parliament's Transport Committee said:
"I'm pleased that for now at least we've been able to win an exemption for smaller Scottish airports from these rules. Many of us were concerned that applying them to smaller airports could lead to unnecessary burdens and bring little real benefit to the airport industry. We must remember the important social and economic contribution of smaller airports to rural communities when we look at these issues.
"The European Commission has been determined to drive these rules through and we have at least been able to get them amended in a way that excludes smaller airports. Whilst this means that Edinburgh and Glasgow airports would be included in the new rules as they stand, it will also mean that they as larger airports should be better able to cope and will be treated on a par with major European hubs such as Charles de Gaulle, Frankfurt, Madrid and Milan.
"These rules still need to be negotiated amongst EU governments, but I am hopeful that we will be able to avoid unnecessary burdens for smaller airports."
The European Parliament approved at first reading a proposed new EU Directive on Airport Charges which will be negotiated amongst EU governments before returning to the European Parliament later this year.