No agreement

‘Dismay’ over breakdown of freeport talks

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Tax-friendly freeports are planned across the UK

A failure by the Holyrood and Westminster governments to reach a joint agreement on setting up two tax-friendly freeports in Scotland will be greeted with dismay, says a business leader.

UK ministers have refused to implement special conditions for green ports in Scotland that include commitments to fair work conditions and net-zero ambitions, according to Scottish Business Minister Ivan McKee.

The UK government insists that such conditions would be implemented under existing employment and environmental legislation.

The breakdown in talks means the Scottish Government will now go-it-alone to progress plans to develop its own green port model.

Under the UK government’s proposals, two Scottish freeports would be granted tax relief of up to £120m over five years, with capital allowances, employers’ national insurance contributions and customs benefits exempt from tax.

However, Scottish Secretary Alister Jack has stated that if Scotland were to develop its greenport plan alone, the Scottish Government would only have enough funding for one site and tax rules would leave it at a competitive disadvantage.

Aberdeen and Peterhead, Cairnryan, Forth Ports and the Port of Cromarty Firth are among nine expressions of interest in setting up a free (green) port, announced in July.

Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, described the “lack of cooperation” between the governments as “an incredibly disappointing development”.

Liz Cameron

Liz Cameron: dismay (pic: Terry Murden)

She added: “It is highly regrettable that a shared agreement on the design and implementation of a freeports model for Scotland could not be reached between the Scottish and UK Governments. This situation should have been avoided and many businesses will view the lack of cooperation and partnership with dismay.

“The UK Government’s decision to move forward on its own, whilst disappointing, will be welcomed by many ports who have invested significant time and money in anticipation for bidding for the status.

“We need to receive details urgently of how businesses can bid and what the next steps are. We cannot afford any further delays especially when Scotland is already behind other parts of the UK, impacting on our ability to attract global investment.

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