Scotland goes its own way on freeports

The Scottish Government has announced that it will progress plans to develop a ‘green port’ model designed to meet the specific needs of Scotland’s economy.

A statement from Business Minister Ivan McKee explained that Westminster representatives were not willing to commit to Holyrood’s fair work conditions and net zero specifications for the proposed free trade zones.

A letter from the Secretary of State for Scotland Alister Jack did not provide a firm UK Government commitment on payment of the real living wage and net zero conditionality, while also failing to provide equivalent set-up funding for Scotland to that offered for the English freeport model.

McKee said: “I have been clear that any model implemented in Scotland must include a firm commitment to conditionality around fair work and net zero.

“These are central tenets of Scotland’s future economy and principles we cannot compromise on.

“It is difficult to comprehend why UK Ministers would seek to dilute a strong commitment to fair work, including payment of the real living wage, when seeking to implement their freeport policy in Scotland.

“The Scottish Government therefore has no option but to take forward plans to further develop our green port model which meet the specific needs of Scotland’s economy.”

Following “productive discussions “with the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, the Scottish Government was ready to publish a joint green port bidding prospectus for Scotland in March, but this has now been delayed again.

The previously-proposed Scottish model adapts England’s plan, where companies inside the sites will be offered temporary tax breaks.

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Goods that arrive into them from abroad are exempt from tariffs that are normally paid to the government. These taxes are only paid if the goods leave the freeport and are moved elsewhere in the UK.

In May, the UK Government confirmed that freeport employers will be able to pay less national insurance for all new workers, from April 2022.

Freeports are usually located around shipping ports, or airports. England’s eight new sites are set to be at East Midlands Airport, Felixstowe and Harwich, Humber region, Liverpool city region, Plymouth, Solent, Thames and Teesside.

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