Executive summary


To inform the development of Scotland’s first ever Aviation Strategy, a consultation was launched in October 2021 inviting views on how the Scottish Government could best work with others to achieve its vision for aviation: “For Scotland to have national and international connectivity that allows us to enjoy all the economic and social benefits of air travel while reducing our environmental impact.”     

The consultation invited views across four main topics, namely: transition to low and zero emission aviation; Scotland's international connectivity; Scotland's domestic connectivity; and air freight.  More general views on what else the Aviation Strategy should try to achieve were also invited.


A total of 93 responses to the consultation were received - 38 from individuals and 55 from organisations. Among the organisations that responded, a broad range of stakeholders were represented including aviation and associated industries, business representative groups, environmental NGOs, local authorities/public bodies, transport partnerships and third sector organisations, among others.

The majority of responses were submitted via Citizen Space, the Scottish Government’s online consultation platform, with responses downloaded to a database for analysis purposes. Closed question responses were quantified to ascertain the number and percentage of respondents who agreed/disagreed with each proposal or question statement, and open question data was analysed thematically to provide an overview of the main views expressed by participants.

A series of four virtual meetings with aviation stakeholders were also held during the consultation period, and findings from each event were written up and fed directly into the consultation analysis.

Main Findings: Low and zero emission aviation

Most respondents supported the development of more efficient low and zero emission aircraft, and both public and private sector investment were seen as necessary in order to bring these new types of aircraft to market. Electric and hydrogen flight options were widely supported, especially for short haul in the short term, and this was coupled with calls for infrastructure changes to support a relatively quick move to electricity and hydrogen.

Many encouraged investment into sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) and there was notable appetite for exploring the possibility of domestically produced SAF, as well as investing in training to ensure an appropriately skilled Scottish workforce to respond to new developments and innovation (and to help with a ‘just transition’). Financial incentives were also widely cited as an appropriate means of helping increase the use of SAF, with corresponding penalties for those who do not support or make progress towards improving environmental performance.

A long term policy framework with incentives to help generate confidence in low and zero emission aviation and attract investment in large scale SAF production was encouraged. Any developments in low and zero emission aviation and associated public messaging must, however, be transparent and consider the true environmental impacts associated with their roll out and use. Opportunities for reducing, minimising and preventing unnecessary air travel should also be explored, it was felt, especially where alternative surface transport was in place that could be used (generating lower emissions).

Main Findings: International connectivity

There was general support for proposals to improve international connectivity in the interests of inclusive economic growth for Scotland.  Some respondents, especially environmental non-governmental organisations (NGOs), however, urged consideration of alternative modes of travel ahead of exploring ways of expanding international air travel, suggesting that the focus should be on aviation demand reduction. Support was also caveated by concerns about the need to ensure that regional connectivity was prioritised and that travel within the UK was not negatively impacted (including exploring ways of better connecting hub airports). 

There were mixed views regarding priority routes for both short and long haul, although agreement that destinations closer to home should be prioritised in the short term. A more strategic approach to identifying priority countries (especially long haul) may be needed to take cognisance of anticipated changes in demand post-pandemic. More general government support for the travel and tourism sector was also encouraged, to help recovery from the impact of COVID-19.

Main Findings: Domestic connectivity

There were mixed views in response to questions linked to domestic connectivity. Most respondents favoured the idea of the Scottish Government purchasing and leasing new zero emission aircraft to airlines operating routes in the Highlands and Islands, however, there was some scepticism regarding how this would operate in practice.

There was also no real consensus regarding the Air Discount Scheme (ADS) for those living in remote communities in the Highlands and Islands.  Some considered that it had been effective in making communities more accessible and sustainable, maintaining lifeline services, while others felt it did not go far enough to help those most in need.

There was support for the Scottish Government encouraging airlines and other transport operators to offer plane plus train tickets, although it was felt that this may need to be widened to include other transport modes to fit with Scotland’s existing infrastructure.

There were very mixed views in relation to the air services needed to best meet the needs of people living in and visiting the Highlands and Islands (including on-demand and open charter services), as well as mixed views on how air services and fares should be managed.  While some felt that local authority operation of airports provided greater democratic accountability and an ability to respond quickly to local issues and concerns, others stressed that unified oversight could be financially more beneficial and nullify some of the risk associated with multiple operators.

There was slightly more consensus around the best way of achieving targets for decarbonising scheduled flights within Scotland, with many noting the benefits of incentivising both the development and use of decarbonised, zero emissions technology.

Main Findings: Freight

In relation to air freight, the main themes appeared to be support for investment and development of SAF supply, innovative new technologies and improved infrastructure in Scotland and at Scotland’s airports to support and attract freight investment. Development of airport facilities and infrastructure where this could enable improved airfreight connectivity for Scotland was also seen as key.

Several comments were made (both in online responses and at the workshops) about seeking ways to reduce Scotland’s reliance on English airports to act as transit points in the transport of freight to/from Scotland.  Safeguarding (and better understanding) freight travel in remote and fragile island economies in particular was seen as essential.  Making better use of unmanned flights/drones for airfreight purposes in some regions was also supported (although not unanimously). 

Exploring ways to improve the road and rail infrastructure to support efficient and sustainable airfreight transport was encouraged.  Views were also put forward that opportunities for alternative movement of freight (especially by rail and water) should not be overlooked and moves to support and enable air freight to the benefit of Scottish airports should not be at the cost of increased carbon emissions.

Cross-Cutting Themes

Financial incentives for the development and use of zero carbon technologies, as well as penalties/taxes/levies for those who continue to use fossil fuel options, was something raised in response to a number of questions. Disincentivising unnecessary aviation was also a recurrent theme although it was recognised that penalties must not disproportionately affect those living in rural, remote and island communities for whom aviation can provide a valuable lifeline.

Support for research and development into zero emissions technology and investing in the required infrastructure to support many of the proposed changes also featured across the consultation. There was consensus that, with the right financial support, the Aviation Strategy may provide an opportunity for the aviation sector in Scotland to explore new and innovative solutions, but that these must be informed by robust research and evidence. Learning lessons from other jurisdictions and taking note of positive advances already made towards sustainable aviation was also encouraged.

The main gaps identified across the consultation were attention to noise pollution, demand reduction and focus on how the wider public transport system (e.g. bus, rail, ferry) can be better integrated with aviation to meet the aims set out. Ensuring that the Aviation Strategy is aligned with policy objectives in relevant fields was also stressed as well as ensuring that it reflects and responds to challenges and changes which are anticipated during the COVID-19 recovery period and beyond.


The findings from the consultation suggest that there is much support for the development of a dedicated Aviation Strategy for Scotland, and also for ongoing involvement of all relevant stakeholders in its development and implementation. Many working in the public and private sectors welcomed the proposals set out in the discussion document and considered that there were significant opportunities for Scotland to embrace new technologies to help meet net-zero targets.

Next Steps

The feedback from both the online consultation and the stakeholder workshops, together with other evidence, will inform the development of the Scottish Government’s Aviation Strategy, which is expected to be published in late 2022 or early 2023.

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