Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Prime Minister Boris Johnson are bringing forward plans for freeports – areas with different customs rules – in a bid to turbocharge the UK economy after Britain left the EU. The freeports are designed to be innovation clusters which boost the economy by offering tax breaks for investment in jobs and infrastructure.
But SNP ministers in Edinburgh have put forward their own proposals for a concept north of the border known as “green ports” after walking away from talks with the UK Government last month on the freeport model.
Under Scottish Government plans, strict employment standards and a commitment to net zero would be imposed on “green port” operators.
However, Express.co.uk understands UK ministers are now looking to push ahead with bids to create a freeport north of the border themselves after ruling out the SNP model.
Dundee, Port of Cromarty Firth and Aberdeen are among the Scottish ports that are desperate to obtain the special status.
Whitehall insiders signalled options were being examined on how the creation of a Scottish freeport would work, with one source claiming the Scottish Government were “playing political games” over the matter.
A UK Government spokesperson added: “It is disappointing that despite strenuous efforts to work together, the Scottish Government has so far chosen not to work with us to bring Freeports to Scotland.
“We will continue to work to ensure that Scotland can enjoy the benefits of the model.
“Freeports will create hubs of global trade, support thousands of jobs, regenerate communities and turbocharge Britain’s post-Brexit growth, all part of the UK Government’s commitment to boost economic activity, levelling up towns, cities and regions across the UK.”
The UK Freeport model forms part of Mr Johnson’s “levelling up” agenda which could create up to 170,000 jobs and add £12 billion to the economy.
In England, eight sites have already been chosen by UK ministers, including Teesside, Plymouth and Liverpool.
In response, Scottish Trade Minister Ivan McKee said the Scottish Government attempted to establish a “joint draft green port bidding prospectus” without success with the UK Government.
Mr McKee said the SNP-led administration could not implement a model that does not include a “firm commitment to fair work and net-zero.”
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A Scottish Government spokesperson insisted their “green port” model could be delivered with “existing powers” held by the Scottish Parliament.
This is despite some powers such as tax breaks for investors being controlled by Westminster.
They also stressed that “having more tax and other economic policy tools would greatly benefit the Scottish economy as a whole.”