Costly policy

Scotland ‘loses investment’ over freeport dispute

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Freeports offer tax incentives

Scotland has lost at least three industrial investments because of the SNP’s insistence on a different policy to the UK’s plan for freeports, it has been claimed.

Ben Houchen, the Conservative mayor of Tees Valley, said a number of major projects will be unveiled in his part of northeast England in the next six months that were destined for Scotland if there had been a freeport.

He said he believed Scotland was “missing a trick” after SNP ministers said they would only agree to freeports if they were rebranded “green ports” and focused on net zero policies and fair work.

Freeports offer tax breaks on investments, waivers on business rates and National Insurance Contributions and lower land transactions tax. In addition, they benefit from tariff-free imports of materials and export of manufactured goods.

They are a key part of Boris Johnson’s Levelling Up agenda to increase living standards in poorer parts of the country following Brexit. Eight areas have so far been designated freeports, with Teesside one of the first to begin operating.

Nine locations were in contention for one or two freeports in Scotland but talks with the UK Government broke down in September and Scottish minister Ivan McKee is now preparing the government’s own plans for low tax enterprise zones.

Mr Houchen told a radio station: “We have attracted investors who were originally looking at Scotland when some areas in Scotland were looking at freeport status, and when they decided not to move forward with the current UK freeport policy (they) have actually abandoned Scotland.

“At least three investors who are, in the next six months, publicly going to announce in Teesside, would have gone to Scotland.

“The fundamental issue is the cost of capital, and the lower barrier for investment in Teesside as a result of the freeport was the reason that they have moved away from Scotland as the place to invest.”

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