SCOTLAND’S new “green ports” will have to ban “the inappropriate” use of zero hours contracts, pay at least the real living wage, tackle the gender pay gap and give employees a voice in the workplace such as through union membership, the Trade Minister has revealed.

Ivan McKee last month unveiled plans for a model to adapt UK proposals for the establishment of free ports which are entry points into the UK that have special exemptions from normal tax and customs rules.

Boris Johnson’s government is planning to create a number of free ports claiming they will act as “business and enterprise hubs”, creating thousands of jobs.

But the Scottish Government initially voiced concern that they could lead to deregulation, a watering down of workers’ rights and tax evasion.

Writing in The National today, McKee stressed operators benefitting from government incentives provided in the scheme would have to meet a set of high standards in employment practices as well as environmental standards.

“Last month I announced that the Scottish Government is developing plans to establish fair, sustainable, green ports in Scotland,” McKee wrote. “These plans take the UK’s freeport model and apply Scotland’s values and priorities to it. However, I have been clear from the outset, we will not allow any designation to be created in Scotland that enables or allows potential tax evasion or does not live up to our high standards and values.”

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He added: “In my statement in Parliament, I made it clear that green port operators, and businesses receiving benefits within green ports would be required to pay the real living wage as a minimum.

“But that is not all that we will expect them to deliver in terms of fair work and inclusive growth.

“Green port operators and businesses will be required to commit to no inappropriate use of zero hours contracts; they will be expected to ensure an effective voice for employees such as through trade union recognition and invest in workforce development; we will want them to show how they will tackle the gender pay gap and create a more diverse and inclusive workplace in their business.”

He added: “As well as demonstrating how they will foster innovation and drive inclusive, sustainable growth within their communities and local supply chains, green ports will also be expected to deliver on a clear, credible plan of action for contributing to Scotland’s just transition to net zero.”

Freeports allow companies to import goods without paying tariffs, process them into a final product and then either pay a tariff on goods sold in the UK or export the final goods without paying UK tariffs.

Possible sites include Rosyth, Dundee, Hunterston, Orkney and Aberdeen. Free ports may be sea ports, airports or rail terminals.