THE Scottish Government is to set up its own green ports after accusing UK ministers of failing to provide guarantees about fair pay and net zero committments.

Scotland’s Trade Minister, Ivan McKee, announced plans to set up independent freeports that would offer tax breaks and exempt goods from tariffs, rather than aligning with the model for other UK sites.

McKee accused the UK Government of trying to “dilute a strong commitment to fair work” by not committing to pay the real living wage of £9.50 an hour as well as other net-zero conditions.

He had previously insisted that the Scottish Government would not support the freeport plans without commitments for fair work and certain commitments relating to net-zero targets.

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The UK Government said it was "disapointing" that the Scottish Government won't work with them, but did not respond to the claims made by McKee. 

Under the proposed agreement, which now appears to have been abandoned, Scottish ministers wanted two so-called green ports that would be special economic zones offering tax breaks and lower tariffs for businesses as a part of the UK Government’s “levelling up” agenda.

But the conditions required by McKee: that operators must have fair work practices and contribute to the transition to net-zero carbon emissions, have not been met, he has claimed.

A letter from the Secretary of State for Scotland Alister Jack to McKee sets out the UK Government’s offer for Scottish freeports but allegedly does not include “fair work conditionality or equal funding”.

The National:

Ivan McKee said that the conditions he set out had not been met

The details of the proposal set out in the letter, which the Scottish Government has not released, does not “provide fair set-up funding” for the projects compared to those in England, McKee claimed.

He said: “I have been clear that any model implemented in Scotland must include a firm commitment to conditionality around fair work and net-zero. These are central tenets of Scotland’s future economy and principles we cannot compromise on.

“The UK Government’s offer does not reflect this, provide fair set-up funding or, indeed, recognise the vital role the real living wage plays in secure pay and employment contracts.

“It is difficult to comprehend why UK Ministers would seek to dilute a strong commitment to fair work, including payment of the real living wage, when seeking to implement their freeport policy in Scotland.

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“With just weeks to go before Cop26, the UK Government should be working with us to help deliver a net-zero economy given both the Scottish and UK Government have statutory targets to meet on reducing our carbon emissions.

“The Scottish Government, therefore, has no option but to take forward plans to further develop our green port model which meet the specific needs of Scotland’s economy.”

A UK Government spokesperson said: “The UK Government's freeport model embraces the highest employment and environmental standards.

“It is disappointing that despite strenuous efforts to work together, the Scottish Government is choosing not to work with us to bring Freeports to Scotland. There is a strong appetite from businesses and it would boost the economy and create jobs.

“We will continue to work to ensure that Scotland can enjoy the benefits of the model.”

We previously told how the Scottish and Welsh Governments warned the UK Government that introducing freeports without consulting devolved administrations would "undermine devolution". 

Both governments said in July that Downing Street has signalled its intention to move forward without devolved consent.