Scottish freeports marked with ‘green Brexit whitewash’ as tender process closes
FREEPORTS has been branded a ‘Brexit greenwash project’ as the tender process for two of Scotland’s special trading areas has closed.
In February, the British and Scottish governments announced that two ‘green’ free ports would be created in Scotland, which would offer tax breaks and reduced rates for businesses using the special economic zones.
Five bids for the free zones have been lodged from the northeast, along the River Clyde, in Inverness, in the Firth of Forth and in Orkney.
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However, the policy is backed by the SNP but not the Greens, with MSP Ross Greer previously describing them as a ‘Thatcherite thing’.
The problem lies with the Scottish government’s attempt to label the areas ‘green ports’ as opposed to the UK’s freeport model, with additional provisions on achieving net zero targets and alignment with the rules of fair work. The Greens have repeatedly refused to support the policy.
And now, as applications for the scheme wind down, North East Greens MSP Maggie Chapman has said it would be “ridiculous” to expect the commercial zones to create up to 30,000 jobs.
The City of Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire Council, Port of Aberdeen, Port Authority of Peterhead and Aberdeen Airport hope their joint bid will be successful.
The SNP and the Scottish Conservatives have backed the introduction of two green freeports in Scotland, with the two governments agreeing a £52million deal in February.
Speaking ahead of the deadline, Chapman said: “Evidence shows that freeports have a terrible record of delivering on their promise of jobs and economic transformation.
“These proposals are just a whitewashed British government Brexit plan.
“Freeport status will lead to tax evasion and the loss of public resources and wealth to the private sector.
“At a time when we need to invest in our communities, these tax avoidance schemes will result in additional money being diverted from those in need.”
Chapman previously described freeports as the “chlorinated chicken of industrial policy.”
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The two green freeports will have a number of advantages for the winning bid. The UK and Scottish governments will provide ‘fiscal’ support to establish governance structures and business plans at the ports, seed capital for land assembly and infrastructure, a range of tax relief and national insurance and customs “easements”.
North East MSP Liam Kerr said: “Freeports present a tremendous opportunity for the North East and the whole of Scotland. The people of the northeast will be tired of this kind of student politics.
“If this kind of extremist opinion reaches the ears of the SNP at Holyrood, they have questions to answer.
“Wherever there is progress to be made, you will see the Scottish Greens shouting it.”
As well as the Greens, an SNP union group has also warned against green freeports and said working with Westminster to set them up could “undermine devolution”.
When confirming five freeport bids, Economy Secretary Kate Forbes said: “I am delighted to see a range of bids coming from across the country to become a green freeport.
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“We expect Green Freeports to promote regeneration in selected areas, create high quality jobs and enhance our decarbonization plans as part of a just transition to a net zero economy.
“We will now jointly assess and decide on the winning bids, following the rigorous process set out in the agreed joint prospectus in which each government has a say. Further details on the successful candidates will be communicated in the coming months. »
The Scottish Government has confirmed bids have been received from Clyde Green Freeport, Aberdeen City & Peterhead Green Freeport, Opportunity Inverness and Cromarty Firth, Firth of Forth Green Freeport and Orkney Green Freeport.