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Scotland to get two freeports after dispute settled

Port of Cromarty Firth
Port of Cromarty is among the interested bidders

Scotland is likely to get two freeports after the UK and Scottish governments resolved their long-running dispute over the terms for setting up the tax-beneficial zones.

It is understood that the SNP government has dropped its insistence on operators paying the living wage – and that this will only be a factor to be considered by employers.

This had been a key point of contention that has held up the establishment of freeports – known as greenports in Scotland – as England pressed on with setting up eight in locations such as Teesside where a freeport is now operating.

It was reported that 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.

Aberdeen and Peterhead, Cairnryan, Forth Ports and the Port of Cromarty Firth were among nine expressions of interest in setting up a free (green) port, announced in July last year, but talks with the UK Government broke down in September and Scottish minister Ivan McKee has been preparing the government’s own plans for low tax enterprise zones.

Freeports offer tax breaks on investments, waivers on business rates and national insurance contributions as well as lower land transactions tax. Goods entering the freeport are exempt from tariffs normally paid to the government so long as they are used for items that are to be exported rather than moved to another part of the UK.

The agreement to be unveiled this week will be funded by the UK government, which has doubled its anticipated investment from £25 million, paving the way for successful bids to be announced in the summer.

Winning two freeports for Scotland will be hailed as a success for Scottish Secretary Alister Jack, although Kate Forbes, the Scottish finance secretary, is said to have played a big part in resolving points of dispute.

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