'Green freeports' for Scotland

14/02/22. Collage of Boris Johnson and Kate Forbes. PA Images photos.
Boris Johnson and Kate Forbes both commented on the announcement. Credit: PA Images

The UK and Scottish governments have agreed there will be two "green freeports" north of the border.

The deal between the two governments comes as Boris Johnson made a visit to Scotland.

Freeports - special economic zones offering tax breaks and lower tariffs for businesses - are being promoted by the UK Government as part of its "levelling up" agenda.

A bidding process for the freeports will open in spring this year and it is hoped the new sites will open in spring 2023.

Last year the Scottish Government said UK ministers risked undermining devolution if they set up the freeports in Scotland or Wales without the backing of devolved governments.

Ministers in Edinburgh later said they would pursue an alternative model called "green ports", but under the new deal they will be known as "green freeports".

The Prime Minister said: "Freeports will help to accelerate our plan to level up communities across the whole of the United Kingdom.

"They have the power to be truly transformational by creating jobs and investment opportunities to enable people to reach their potential, and I am delighted that people across Scotland will reap the benefits that will come from having two new green freeports."

Scotland's Finance Secretary, Kate Forbes, said: "I am pleased we have been able to reach an agreement on a joint approach that recognises the distinct needs of Scotland and enshrines the Scottish Government's commitment to achieving net zero and embedding fair work practices through public investment.

Kate Forbes has welcomed the announcement. Credit: PA Images

"Scotland has a rich history of innovative manufacturers and so, as we look to grasp the many opportunities of achieving net zero, the establishment of green freeports will help us create new green jobs, deliver a just transition and support our economic transformation."

The UK Government has committed funding of #52 million to the project and bidders will have to pledge to reach net zero by 2045.

Ministers from both governments will have a say in the assessment and selection process for the bids.

The Scottish Government and the Treasury will use their tax powers, including rates relief, to support the freeports.

Under the UK Government's model, freeports are centred around at least one air, rail or sea port, but can extend up to 45km beyond.

The Scottish Government said the term "green freeport" reflected its distinctive net-zero aspirations.

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said: "This is a truly exciting moment for Scotland, and I am delighted we will be working together with the Scottish Government to set up two new green freeports.

"Green freeports help inject billions into the local economy, while levelling up by creating jobs for local people, and opportunities for people all over the UK to flourish.

"By collaborating using opportunities like green freeports we can work to level up the whole of the UK and bring benefits and opportunities to communities that need it most."

Ian Murray, Labour's shadow Scottish secretary, said regions in England had a head start "because the two governments disagreed over the name".

"It's vital that the Scottish and UK governments put their differences aside, and we must ensure that workers' rights are protected within the zones, creating high-quality jobs and not undercutting others," he said.

The plans have been criticised though by the Scottish Greens, the SNP's government partners.

MSP Ross Greer, the Green's finance spokesman, said: "The Greens will have nothing to do with this corporate give away."

"A little greenwashing won't change the grim reality of these 'freeports'," he added.

"They are yet another way of handing tax breaks and public money to rich corporations, despite no evidence that it will create real economic prosperity."

The Prime Minister has been visiting to a manufacturing site in Scotland today before heading to an oncology centre in north-west England.