Montrose Port Could Be the Beating Heart of North-East EconomyNeil Hardie
Scottish ministers have announced plans to establish Scotland’s first green freeports in a “screeching U-turn” that could attract major new investment.
Freeports, which have special status that allows companies to defer paying tax or owe none at all if the make products on-site, are already planned in England.
The Scottish Government has confirmed it now plans to adapt the UK model to establish “fair, sustainable, green ports” with a streamlined planning process and a package of tax and customs reliefs.
Scotland’s model would make it necessary for operators to pay the Real Living Wage, adopt the Scottish Business Pledge, commit to supporting sustainable and inclusive growth in communities, and contribute to Scotland’s transition to net-zero.
The plans were announced by trade minister Ivan McKee, who will hold discussions with the UK Government next week.
Opposition parties described the move as a “humiliating climb-down for the SNP” after party members backed a resolution at last year’s conference stating freeports were “entirely at odds with economic recovery plans.
Announcing the Scottish Government’s position, Mr McKee said the reputation of freeports across the world is “mixed with concerns about deregulations and risk of criminality, tax evasion and reduction in workers’ rights raised”.
He said it is not a model the Scottish Government could sign up to.
Mr McKee said ministers instead propose to take the existing freeport model and apply Scottish priorities to create an “exemplar” that helps deliver net-zero emissions and fair work principles, alongside supporting regeneration and innovation ambitions.
The UK Treasury wrote to Mr McKee last month to outline how the freeports plan could “greatly benefit the people of Scotland” and several sites including Montrose, Dundee, Aberdeen, Rosyth and Cromarty are keen to enjoy freeport status.
Councillor Braden Davy, who introduced a council motion supporting Montrose’s bid to become a freeport, which was also supported by SNP councillors, welcomed the decision.
He said: “This could lead to new jobs, investment, and make Montrose the beating heart of the north-east economy.”
Scottish Conservative economy spokesman, Maurice Golden said the “screeching U-turn” from the Scottish Government was very welcome and “it seems they have finally realised that businesses are desperate to reap the benefits from freeports”.