PLANS to set up a greenport at the Firth of Forth are underway despite an ongoing row between Westminster and Holyrood over the implementation of freeports in Scotland.

Last week The Telegraph reported that the UK Government was set to launch freeports north of the Border despite Scottish ministers’ opposition.

Freeports are designated areas where arriving goods are exempt from tax charges, with payments only required when they leave the port. They aim to encourage economic activity in a specific area – prior to 2012 there were five in the UK, but they were scrapped under the Tory/LibDem coalition. The current Conservative Government is keen to bring them back to post-Brexit Britain.

READ MORE: UK Government to sideline Scottish Parliament and bring in freeports

The Scottish Government has proposed altering freeports to “greenports”, which would be similar but involve staff being paid the living wage and a requirement to commit to the net-zero transition. The SNP expressed concerns over the freeports system, warning they are linked to criminality, tax evasion and poor workers’ rights – and could trigger a “race to the bottom” on standards.

However, Tory ministers are unhappy with the Scottish proposals. They say changing the name “undermines the freeport brand”, and accused the Holyrood government of “irresponsible nationalism”.

As talks between the two sides stalled, a UK Government source said: “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.”

Today it has emerged that Forth Ports, Scotland’s largest ports operator, has informed the Scottish Government that it intends to submit plans for a greenport.

The plans would include key sea ports, an industrial hub and Edinburgh Airport being linked together along the Forth Estuary.

Forth Ports chief executive Charles Hammond said: “Our interest in creating a Firth of Forth green port is underpinned by our belief in the government policy behind it to create economic zones for investment and regeneration and we are committed to supporting the development of this green port policy.”

He described the Firth of Forth as a “critical engine” for Scotland’s economic recovery from the pandemic, and said the project would “encourage greater inclusive growth, fair work practices and help deliver Scotland’s net-zero economy”.

“This would support the transition to net zero and at the same time, create good quality green industrial employment,” he added.

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said gathering notes of interest is part of the greenport consultation, and will provide an indication of the sectors likely to benefit from the policy.

READ MORE: Ivan McKee: The 'English freeport model' wouldn't meet Scotland's needs

“The responses received demonstrate a clear appetite for green ports in Scotland. We thank everyone who has submitted a note of interest,” they added.

“The Scottish Government remains committed to working in partnership with the UK Government to ensure the benefits of green ports are equally felt by businesses across the UK.

“We continue to urge UK ministers to work with us to ensure proposals best meet the needs of business and communities in Scotland and to ensure there is not a race to the bottom on workers’ rights and the environment.”