SCOTLAND’S green freeports take a “different approach” to freeports in England, an SNP MP has said.

Douglas Chapman, who represents Dunfermline and West Fife – which includes Rosyth, one of the sites included within the Forth green freeport – told The National, however, that he can “fully appreciate” people’s concerns.

“As a member of the Business and Trade Committee at Westminster, we've heard some horror stories on freeports in England,” he added.

“So credit is due to former Scottish Government ministers, Kate Forbes and Ivan McKee, that they stuck in their heels against immense pressure from the UK Government who wanted us to adopt their freeport model (warts and all) in order to protect employees, the environment and stop job displacement with Scotland's unique greenport approach.”

READ MORE: Douglas Chapman reveals 'frustration' among SNP MPs over lack of indy progress

Inverness and Cromarty Firth green freeport and Forth green freeport were announced as Scotland’s two winning bids in January last year through the scheme agreed by the Scottish and UK governments – which offers special tax incentives and lower tariffs around ports, with the aim of stimulating economic growth.

The first freeports in the UK opened in the 1980s under Margaret Thatcher while an EU member state. It was only in 2012 that the Tory-led government decided not to renew their licences.

Post-Brexit, Rishi Sunak pushed freeports again with the argument that without governance by the EU, the UK has more freedom over the flexibilities and concessions it can offer.

Inverness and Cromarty Firth green freeport and Forth green freeport were announced as Scotland’s two winning bids in January last year – agreed jointly by the Scottish and UK governments.

These "green freeports" are different from UK freeports in that they have a particular focus on contributing to the Scottish Government's net zero and fair work agenda.

There are concerns – including from SNP trade unionists – however that the Scottish Government doesn’t have the legal authority to fully guarantee these safeguards and ambitions for the freeports.

The National:

English freeports, meanwhile, have been under pressure, and particularly Teeside freeport – the largest in the UK – which was the subject of a damning review in January.

While the report dismissed allegations of cronyism and corruption due to a lack of evidence, it said taxpayers are not being guaranteed value for money or transparency. The freeport has also been accused of environmental destruction during its construction due to the dumping of waste. 

Chapman conceded that freeports “as a model have well documented issues” but added that Scotland’s green freeports take a “different approach and tone to the way they want to operate on land they already own.”

He added: “Most importantly, there are local voices on the governance board, and at the Rosyth greenport there will be a trade union representative on the board too, while all decisions will be taken with unanimous support of all the partners, which include three local authorities.”

The SNP MP said that in an “ideal world”, Scotland’s ports wouldn’t have been privatised by the Tory government in the 1990s and would instead be owned and managed publicly “with the communities they serve”.

“The difficult issue in Scotland is that we don't have our own Maritime Strategy to follow, so when non-strategic ideas come along, we need to decide whether we are going to go for it or not, regardless of the fit,” he said.

“As an SNP MP, I'm not going to watch the English ports get government subsidies from the Treasury to the disadvantage of Scottish ports.

“I've also watched the 158 hectares at Rosyth lie dormant as a developable brownfield site for the last 20 years at such a strategic site.

"We need to break that cycle and in the absence of a strategy, in the face of doing nothing, the greenport is an opportunity to build an economy based on growth and prosperity for all.”