SCOTLAND has genuine global strengths in many of the key industries of the future – renewable energy and hydrogen, life sciences, advanced manufacturing, digital, space and many others, often built on the excellence of our university research and the skills of our people.

Our job is to build on those strengths and maximise the phenomenal opportunities before us

to ensure we thrive as an independent country. Building a successful economy that has fair work, payment of the Real Living Wage and a just transition to a net-zero future at its heart. Ensuring we protect, and enhance, environmental standards and workers’ rights.

A climb to the top, not a race to the bottom.

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

I am committed to using all the tools at our disposal to ensure we do just that and do so in a way that ensures Scotland’s regions are able to benefit from those opportunities as we build clusters of manufacturing excellence in those industries of the future with high innovation, high wage and high technology that put employees and our environment first.

We have made significant progress in the implementation of one initiative that will support the delivery of those economic aims – our Green Ports model. As part of this, we have secured significant additional investment into Scotland to upgrade port infrastructure and build clusters of manufacturing excellence – fully aligned with our fair work and net-zero commitments, and on a partnership basis between the Scottish and UK Governments.

Some have argued that, left unchecked, freeports can promote a race to the bottom in low-cost, low-wage and low-tech manufacturing. I understand that concern and am determined to ensure that won’t happen in Scotland.

That is why we have adapted the freeport model to put regeneration, fair work and decarbonisation at its heart – and why we have insisted on, and ensured, an equal say in decision-making and delivery. And why we are clear that robust monitoring and compliance will be a key element of Scottish Green Ports.

The establishment of two Green Ports in Scotland will inject many millions of pounds into our economy by incentivising more business activity through tailored support – helping Scottish businesses grow and take advantages of those opportunities. This will help create high-quality, well-paid jobs while contributing to a just transition from fossil fuels and environmentally harmful business practices, through industries such as offshore wind.

They can also support economic transformation by encouraging internationally competitive clusters of excellence based in Scotland and supplied by businesses in Scotland, something which will be at the core of our National Strategy for Economic Transformation.

Applicants for Green Port status will be required to set out robust plans on how they will contribute to Scotland’s just transition to a net-zero economy. We have been clear about the need for Green Ports to be an exemplar of the use of technology and innovation to decarbonise Scotland’s economy, to incubate and foster clusters of new green technology and industries and benefit wider supply chains in Scotland. This is all the more pressing following COP26 in Glasgow just last year.

Fair work practices are also at the heart of Green Ports. We expect bidders for these contracts to pay at least the Real Living Wage and to embed the highest fair work practices into the companies operating in the Green Port area.

Any bid that does not demonstrate how it will deliver the very highest standards in fair work practice, including payment of the Real Living wage, will not be supported by the Scottish Government. However this is also, critically, a partnership with the businesses behind Green Ports. As part of this deal, the UK Government has now agreed to provide the same set-up funding in Scotland that is available for England. The agreement to invest up to £52 million pounds to create two new designations is almost three times as generous as the funding package in the Secretary of State for Scotland’s formal offer to us last autumn.

READ MORE: The UK Government is trampling over Scotland again with freeports

We are also assured of an equal voice in all decision making and we will ensure our principles are at the centre of this.

On these four criteria – fair work, net zero, funding and an equal say – the Scottish Government has secured everything we sought in our negotiations with the UK Government. That is why we are proceeding with the implementation of the Green Ports model in Scotland.

We can only deliver Scotland’s economic potential as an independent country if we maximise the opportunities before us to create secure, sustainable and satisfying jobs that help build a fairer, more prosperous economy for everyone.

That is a Scottish Government priority. Establishing Green Ports with the vital changes the Scottish Government has secured will help us achieve this.