FREEPORTS are a repeat of the failed "trickle-down economics" experiment of the 1980s, a Scottish Greens MSP has said.

Ross Greer was the only MSP on the Finance and Public Administration Committee to oppose legislation enabling two Scottish freeports and their associated tax breaks on Tuesday. 

Goods imported into freeports are exempt from taxes, called tariffs, that are normally paid to the UK Government. It means manufacturers in freeports can import raw materials tariff-free, only paying tariffs on finished products leaving the site for elsewhere in the UK.

In his questioning of the Minister for Community Wealth and Public Finance, Tom Arthur, Greer highlighted that the tax breaks provided would apply even to companies based in overseas tax havens such as the Cayman Islands and that there are no requirements for businesses operating in the freeports to pay their workers decent wages or to recognise trade unions.

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Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport and Forth Green Freeport have been selected jointly by the Scottish Government and UK Government as the locations for Scotland’s first green freeports.

Speaking after the vote, Greer said: “These freeports are certainly not green. They’re a repeat of a failed Tory experiment in trickle-down economics, essentially creating mini tax havens that allow corporations to get out of paying their fair share to support the NHS and other services that we all rely on.

“The freeport experiment of the 1980s only worsened inequality by moving jobs around the country rather than creating new ones. In the case of these Scottish freeports there is a real risk of jobs being moved from a west coast already struggling with depopulation to an east coast which, in relative terms, is thriving.

“Internationally, but especially in Europe, freeports are associated with organised crime, especially money laundering, smuggling and the exploitation of workers. That presents a major risk to Scotland’s international reputation.

“Devolution allows us to do things differently in Scotland. Given the absolute disaster that is the UK’s Tory government, different is exactly what we should be aiming for.

“The Scottish Greens want the eye watering profits of big business to be reinvested in our communities, not squirrelled offshore to tax havens.”

Trickle-down economics

This was a term used to describe the belief that if high-income earners gain an increase in their salary, then everyone in the economy will benefit as their wealth filters down to all sections of society.

It is thought by some that if high-income earners see an increase in disposable income, they will increase their spending and this will create additional demand in the economy. The theory is this higher level of aggregate demand then creates jobs and higher wages for all workers.

The UK set up seven freeports after 1984, including ones at Liverpool and Southampton, but these were phased out in 2012.

The Scottish Government has called the sites "green" freeports, because bids had to include plans for lowering carbon emissions.

But the Greens say there are "no hard requirements" to meet the climate targets.