Decarbonising aviation can see Scottish economy flying high

New report finds absence of connectivity strategy will threaten prosperity and net zero targets

A new academic report finds the connectivity facilitated through aviation is critical for the Scottish economy and that reducing flights would cause immense damage to most industries.

The report – authored by Professor Duncan Maclennan, Emeritus Professor of Urban Economics at the University of Glasgow and commissioned by Edinburgh Airport – concludes that Scotland must deploy a strategic and integrated policy approach to achieve net zero targets in aviation. In doing so, Scotland has the potential to accelerate its just transition and attract investment in the production of renewable and sustainable aviation fuel.

As part of his research, Professor Maclennan interviewed 42 business and policy leaders in Edinburgh and Scotland, 21 in Sydney and New South Wales, and 16 in Toronto and Ontario.

Professor Maclennan found Edinburgh to be the gateway for connecting goods and people to and from Scotland but when comparing Edinburgh to cities like Sydney and Toronto he found it is lagging behind on its wider connectivity and infrastructure strategy.

He said: “There are great decarbonised transport options to and from Edinburgh Airport and the city itself. However, unlike other cities that have better connectivity strategies, Edinburgh hasn’t developed good transport links to the surrounding metropolitan areas. Through my interviews and research, I’ve found this to be because our decision-making here in Scotland is too localised and not joined-up enough.”

Professor Maclennan continued: “We need more leadership from the Scottish Government on the strategy for decarbonising aviation and how it connects to our wider transport and infrastructure planning. Scotland and Edinburgh have both been early embracers of net zero targets, but unfortunately that enthusiasm hasn’t translated into delivery and integrated, big-picture policy development and practical delivery.

“But there is opportunity for Scotland to make smart policy and investment decisions and become a leader in the development and export of sustainable aviation technology.

“While there are some key industries that are particularly dependent on the connectivity that only aviation can bring to Scotland, when you look at the wider economic modelling connectivity underpins most of our entire economy.

“In Scotland we are not always honest about how well connected we are by rail and other sustainable transport options. It takes four hours to get from Edinburgh to London, but what about from the Highlands to Wales? We need to be honest about the role aviation pays and get serious about leading the way on net zero – moving beyond rhetoric into integrated, bold and strategic action.”


View the Future flying: Up in the air? report here.

View the Future flying: Up in the air? The case study of policy and practice for Sydney here.

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