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UK Government challenged to deliver green ports in Scotland

Published: 03 Jul 2021 09:11

Trade Minister writes to UK Ministers.

Following a meeting yesterday, Friday 2 July, with the Secretary of State for Scotland, Trade Minister Ivan McKee has written to the UK Government seeking their urgent cooperation to deliver green ports in Scotland.

Adapting the UK Government freeport proposals, the aim of Scottish green ports is to offer a package of tax and customs reliefs to operators and their beneficiaries who adopt fair work practices and contribute to Scotland’s just energy transition to net zero.

In a letter to the Scottish Secretary, Mr McKee outlined concerns from the Scottish Government and industry stakeholders that a delay from the UK Government is putting Scottish ports at a competitive disadvantage. Mr McKee also made it clear that Scottish Ministers would challenge any attempts by the UK Government to legislate in devolved areas.

He said:

“Green ports will help us create a sustainable economy that promotes good jobs and supports our important net zero commitments. The Scottish Government remains committed to working in partnership with the UK Government to ensure the benefits of green ports are equally felt by businesses across the UK. However, we have been frustrated at the lack of cooperation from the UK Government who so far appear to be unwilling to allocate funding on a par with elsewhere in the UK, or to agree to our green port ambitions on fair work and net zero.

“The Scottish Government will not be party to any offer that does not include these elements as articulated in our draft prospectus as published in March. Should the UK Government move forward with a proposal that does not include a commitment on fair work and net zero, the Scottish Government will not support this initiative. To ensure there is not a race to the bottom on workers’ rights and the environment, the Scottish Government will challenge any attempts by the UK Government to impose their model in Scotland by legislating in devolved areas, which would be a breach of the spirit of the Devolution settlement.”

Background

While remaining committed to working with the UK Government to establish green ports, the Scottish Government is now seeking notes of interest from business.

Establishing green ports - gov.scot (www.gov.scot)

Mr McKee’s letter to Alister Jack is below. 

Dear Alister,

Thank you for the call this afternoon.

I remain perplexed as to why this conversation could not have taken place in February, and allowed us to give some certainty to Scottish businesses. The delays caused by the UK Government have meant that Scottish ports may be placed at a disadvantage in relation to their counterparts in England.

I look forward to receiving your letter but in the meantime I think I understand your position as being that the Freeport is a UK wide project and that there should therefore not be substantive differences between the offers across the UK. I note from our conversation that you did not consider this position to cover the financial aspects of this policy and you were quite happy for Scottish ports to receive substantially less funding from the UK Government. You also mentioned that you would consider a second port in Scotland, but only if this Scottish Government were to pay for it.

I have to reiterate our clear position that any offer to which the Scottish Government is party to has to include conditionality around Fair Work and Net Zero as core elements. This by its nature makes the Scottish offer substantially different from that being rolled out across England. You will be aware that these elements are non-negotiable and the Scottish Government will not be party to any offer that does not include these elements as articulated in our draft prospectus as published in March and verbally agreed with HM Treasury in February.

Should the UK Government wish to move forward with a proposal that does not include these elements I can inform you now that the Scottish Government will not support this initiative with its lack of protection against a race to the bottom on workers conditions and the environment.

I am also deeply concerned as to your implication that you are considering taking over powers around devolved taxation, and that you have taken legal advice on this. Clearly this is in breach of the Devolution settlement as voted for overwhelmingly in 1997. I look forward to your urgent clarification on what you meant by your remarks in this regard.

I am copying this letter to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

Yours sincerely,

Ivan McKee