PROPOSALS have been outlined by the Scottish Government to adapt a UK freeport model to one that will focus on delivering a green economy.
Trade Minister Ivan McKee set out plans to develop “green ports” that will make it necessary for operators and businesses using them to provide fair work practices, commit to supporting sustainable and inclusive growth in local communities and contribute to Scotland’s transition to net-zero.
McKee, who is due to hold discussions with the UK Government next week, announced the green ports plan today.
In his statement to Holyrood during a virtual session, McKee noted that the announcement by the UK Government for freeports plans last October was made out to be an “antidote” to Brexit when freeports have existed in the UK before and around 80 still exist in the EU.
McKee said: “The reputation of freeports across the world is mixed, with concerns about deregulation and risks of criminality, tax evasion and reductions in workers’ rights raised. That is not a model nor an approach that this Scottish Government will sign up to or allow here in Scotland.
“And it is clear that freeports cannot and will not undo the damage being caused to Scotland’s economy by the UK Government’s decision to take us out of the EU, the world’s biggest single market.
“Instead, we propose to take the freeport model and apply Scotland’s priorities to it, so that it meets our ambition to deliver a net-zero, wellbeing economy that upholds the highest standards of environmental protections and fair work practices and supports our strategy of building clusters of high productivity businesses across Scotland’s regions.”
However, the Scottish Greens are not happy with the current proposal for green ports, with co-leader Patrick Harvie tweeting: “This is shameless greenwash. Freeports are a form of sanctioned tax dodging, linked to deregulation and race-to-the-bottom free market extremism. Simply putting the word “green” into the name doesn’t change that. This is Tory economics.”
This is shameless greenwash. Freeports are a form of sanctioned tax dodging, linked to deregulation and race-to-the-bottom free market extremism. Simply putting the word “green” into the name doesn’t change that. This is Tory economics. https://t.co/RM0hpgZWhz
— Patrick Harvie 🇪🇺🌈 (@patrickharvie) January 21, 2021
During the question session following McKee’s announcement, Scottish Greens environmental spokesperson Mark Ruskell said: “Simply calling a free port ‘green’ doesn’t guarantee environmental and workers standards, and presents a real risk of greenwashing a deregulated race to the bottom.
“We haven’t seen any detail of the environmental standards these ports will be expected to uphold. They must not be part of the Brexit race to the bottom in standards and protections or given free reign over planning decisions, which must remain accountable to local communities.”
Responding to Ruskell’s points – slightly interrupted by technical issues during the virtual meeting – McKee said he would be happy to meet with the Scottish Greens and other MSPs to discuss the proposals further.
He denied that the model of the green port would be a race to the bottom and insisted it would be a “climb to the top”.
The Scottish Tories welcomed the announcement with their economy spokesman, Maurcie Golden MSP, branding it a “U-turn” by the SNP who, he said, backed a motion against the idea of freeports at their conference in November.
The Trade Minster denied it being a U-turn, saying that they have taken the time to understand what parts of the model will work and how it can be adapted to Scotland’s economic transition.
He added that the Scottish Government has “gone further” than the UK by adding fair work and environmental aspects to the green ports model.
— to www.thenational.scot