THE UK Government is planning to launch freeports in Scotland despite Scottish ministers’ opposition to the model, it has emerged.

Freeports are government-designated areas, usually around a shipping port or airport, where arriving goods are exempt from tax charges. Payments are only required if they leave the ports in an attempt to encourage economic activity in the area.

Ministers in Holyrood have proposed a “greenport” approach north of the Border, calling for businesses in the ports to pay the real living wage and help the net-zero transition.

The SNP government fears the freeports system is linked to criminality, poorer workers’ rights and tax evasion – and fear a “race to the bottom” on standards if the ports are not introduced with their suggested changes.

READ MORE: Freeports: UK Government will 'undermine devolution' in Scotland and Wales

But Tory ministers feel that “undermines the freeport brand” and accused the Scottish Government of “irresponsible nationalism”.

They say the freeport title must be used, and talks between the sides have stalled. According to The Telegraph, the UK Government has now started on planning to cut out the Scottish Government altogether and bring in the freeports directly.

Westminster would encourage direct bids from Scotland’s port authorities, in a move which would spark a major constitutional argument.

The Scottish Government could block developments using planning powers – but that could cause problems with councils, like Aberdeen, that support the ports. The Aberdeen authority, led by former Labour representatives and Tory councillors, say freeports present an “unprecedented” opportunity.

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said while it is committed to working with the UK on this matter, it can’t “sign up to a policy which does not respect devolution, undermines the Scottish economy and fails to provide equivalent funding” to the English ports.

They went on: "We need the UK Government to work with us to ensure their proposals best meet the needs of business and communities in Scotland. Should the UK Government move forward with a proposal that does not include a commitment on fair work and net zero, the Scottish Government will not support this initiative.

“Our fair work and net zero conditions are not simply rhetoric but crucial to developing a model that is fit for the 21st century and can garner support across Scotland.

"We will challenge any attempts by the UK Government to impose their model in Scotland by legislating in devolved areas, which would be a breach of the spirit of the devolution settlement and we strongly encourage the UK Government to work with us to ensure we can deliver greenports in Scotland.”

READ MORE: Ivan McKee: Our green ports will be built on Scottish values and help to grow our exports

A source at the UK Government told The Telegraph: “Freeports bring huge potential to boost the Scottish economy and create high quality jobs.

“We want to work with the Scottish Government to deliver the best deal for Scotland. But that's going to be difficult as long as the Scottish Government continue to undermine the Freeport brand.

“As things stand, it appears the Scottish Government are seeking to manufacture a constitutional row rather than work with us on what's best for the economy. Scotland's economic recovery is too important to be derailed by irresponsible nationalism”.