FINANCE Secretary Kate Forbes will be asked to provide “urgent answers” on the apparent contradictions between a deal for “green freeports” in Scotland and the SNP’s official policy on the issue agreed at conference.

The SNP Trade Union group, which has more than 14,000 members, will tell the party's National Executive Committee of concerns that the freeports plan is not compatible with what party members have agreed.

They further warned that the plan risked opening a “dangerous unregulated backdoor” which may weaken workers’ rights both within and outwith the freeports.

A motion passed at the SNP conference in September last year said the party would oppose freeports in Scotland unless six strict requirements were met.

However, the UK Government has pledged £52 million to build two “green freeports” in Scotland, which has been hailed by the SNP’s Kate Forbes as a chance to “create new green jobs, deliver a just transition and support our economic transformation”.

READ MORE: Why is there an SNP-Green row over freeports in Scotland?

However, the Scottish Greens have hit out at the plan – which is not covered by the two parties’ co-operation agreement – saying they “will have nothing to do with this corporate give away”.

Their concerns have been echoed by the SNP Trade Union group, who have warned that the freeports plan may “undermine devolution”.

The SNP's Trade Union group has asked for answers around the plans for 'green freeports' in ScotlandThe plan for 'green freeports' was announced as Boris Johnson visited Scotland

Bill Ramsay, the group’s convener, said: “We have concerns about the introduction of freeports in Scotland.

“Last year our party agreed six clear conditions which we believe makes them untenable – conditions which also apply to the greenport variant – which was rejected by SNP party conference in September 2021.

“We of course recognise that as long as Scotland is part of the UK any Scottish devolved administration has a duty to work with the UK Government, and to attempt to alleviate and or mitigate any policies of the UK Government that are potentially harmful to Scotland.

“On the face of it, the decision to do a deal with the UK Government on these deregulated zones risks undermining devolution and opening a dangerous unregulated backdoor into the Scottish economy.

“We will be raising this at the SNP’s National Executive Committee and seeking urgent answers from the Scottish Government’s Finance Secretary about how all six conditions for freeports and greenports, agreed as policy by the SNP, will be met, and what statutory powers the Scottish Government can exercise to guarantee compliance.”

The six conditions agreed by the SNP conference are:

  • 1. All businesses operating within the zone must pay the Real Living Wage as a minimum, as well as abiding by Fair Work practices.
  • 2. Trade Union recognition must be mandatory.
  • 3. Local government must receive sufficient financial investment to carry out any required services to these zones.
  • 4. All businesses operating within the freeport zone must be operating to assist the Scottish Government in achieving its ambitious Net Zero targets.
  • 5. Local Communities adversely affected by the operation of the Freeport must be fully compensated by those businesses operating within it.
  • 6. All relevant controls by relevant agencies must be in place – i.e. Health and Safety, environmental controls, law enforcement, etc.

Conference agreed that “without securing the six requirements set out above in their entirety, freeports should not be established or permitted within Scotland”.

The two “green freeport” sites, which will be announced this year , are designed to boost economic growth by offering tax breaks and other incentives to businesses within them.

Centred around docks, airports or railheads, the freeport zones may be up to 45km across. Aberdeen, Cairnryan, Cromarty, Dundee and Mossend rail terminal are candidates.