THE passing of legislation establishing a new tax to replace air passenger duty is welcomed.

Air departure tax (ADT) paves the way for the Scottish Government to fulfil its commitment to cut the levy in half by the end of this parliament, ahead of abolishing the charge altogether.

UK Air Passenger Duty (APD) is the most expensive tax of its kind in Europe and profoundly impacts on Scotland. Attracting investment is now more crucial than ever as we embark on Brexit negotiations.

The reduction and ultimate abolition of APD in Scotland will have two key impacts – first, some international routes which are currently marginal and therefore not flown are likely to become viable. Secondly, there is likely to be a price reduction on domestic flying and the real possibility of additional frequencies. Research indicates that halving APD will create nearly 4000 jobs and add £200 million a year to the Scottish economy by 2020.

No action could cost the Scottish economy up to £68m in lost tourism revenue every year.

APD affects Scotland’s ability to compete with the rest of Europe, and our economy is footing the bill in lost jobs and lost opportunities.
Alex Orr


Poking fun at religious beliefs is perfectly fine

WHEN I saw the puff for Kevin McKenna’s column in The National (Christians are being persecuted for their faith by the UK’s liberal elite, The National, June 21) I wondered if it would turn out to be another moan about attitudes to his Catholic faith travelling in a more generic polemic. It didn’t take long for the real reason for his piece to surface. You are getting so predictable, Kevin!

It started citing a daft wee play about the "ee Frees” – as though he thinks the theatre should be censored. He then produced tenuous links about random criticisms of Catholicism as though people are not allowed an opinion. Nowhere did he produce any examples of persecution. No-one has been banged up for being a Catholic. The days of asking your religion before getting a job or a council house have long gone.

He hangs some of this moan on the treatment of Tim Farron, the outgoing LibDem leader. Farron resigned of his own accord as he couldn’t reconcile his religious beliefs with leadership of his party. Fair enough. He did try lots of evasion rather than give straight answers initially and then found this less than honest approach too much to bear. He also faced massive criticism from inside the party for being economical with the truth about his beliefs. It wasn’t his actual beliefs which led to his fall from grace. He terminated his political career on his own.

Of course the main thrust of Kevin’s article was about his view of the treatment of Catholics. He misses entirely the point. If he wishes to shun contraception and abortion – that is his choice The state does not deny him that right. What he is not allowed to do is impose his lifestyle on others.

It is perfectly OK for the general public and the artistic community to poke fun at his religious beliefs.

We do it with the flat Earthers and Trump supporters. Why not religion?

Kevin finishes by bemoaning the rejection of a Catholic-only primary school in Milngavie. Was that the whole reason for this contorted passage he has written? Many think there should be a absolute right for freedom of worship of any religion within the laws of a country.

I am of that view. However, I don’t see why there is a need for separate and divisive schooling which I have to subsidise. Now many other flavours of religion are demanding state subsidy of separate religious schools. Perhaps we should take religious teaching out of schools altogether?
Tony Grahame

I AM quite a fan of Kevin McKenna but I have to disagree with his article on Christians being persecuted for their faiths. I’m sorry if anyone, Christian or otherwise, gets offended but I am offended every school day when I see children walking in different directions to school because their parents believe in a man-made religion and I would have the greatest respect for a person’s faith if they chose it themselves when they were maybe teenagers or older.

It cannot be right to teach a child that their version of the Prophets of God is the true one. The history of teachers of religions has been to keep people in their place and to stop them thinking for themselves. This is a discussion that needs a good airing.
R Smith
East Kilbride

IT was interesting to read Kevin McKenna’s article on religious adherents, in particular Christian ones and their sense of persecution in current society.

When I was growing up it was the other way round. The population in general and public bodies in particular were overly deferential to religion. Everything finished by 11.30pm on a Saturday, frowns were given to youngsters playing in the street on a Sunday. These were just two of the minor things one had to put up with in order to satisfy the godly in society.

Writing as someone who ceased religious activity nearly 50 years ago and for whom the ceiling hasn’t collapsed since then, I have little sympathy for him. From a historical viewpoint, whenever religion has the opportunity, it will attempt to force the general population to conform with its view.

This is true of all belief systems, both in the past and in the many countries where it still happens.

I fully accept freedom of religion, what I want is freedom from religion. Too many still use it as front to achieve respectability. This is what makes non-believers suspicious of any overt religiosity. For many religion is summed up by Burns’s poem Holy Willie’s Prayer.
Drew Reid
Carronshore, Falkirk

BUILD a better Scotland. A strategy to prevent polarisation of different faith communities is to build Mosques and Christian churches side by side with a community hall connecting the two buildings. The hall could be used for activities the two communities organise.

These community halls could be a hub for local residents to come together and socialise, or for education. Children of all faiths could learn musical instruments together as part of the Big Noise project.

Members of the emergency services, police and firefighters, could come and give talks on fire safety etc and build good relations with the community they serve.

The new builds would also give much needed work to the construction industry, employing local construction workers who will spend their wages in the shops which in turn will boost the economy. Everyone’s a winner!