Candidates standing in the north-east have been urged to back calls for Aberdeen to be given freeport status.
Now those standing for the SNP at next week’s election have been urged to support the bid to bring the plan to fruition.
Freeport status would lead to the creation of an area where trade could be carried out with relief from import duties and reduced administrative burdens.
A number of the zones are to be created across the UK, and ports in England were able to start bidding in November.
However, the process is yet to begin in Scotland, and the Conservatives have warned “time is of the essence” if the north-east is to benefit from a potential jobs boost.
Looking to the future
The party’s candidate Douglas Lumsden, who is standing in Aberdeen Central as well as the regional list, called for cross-party support for a freeport in the north-east.
“Aberdeen and the north-east of Scotland has always been a sizeable contributor to the UK’s economy mainly due to the success of the oil and gas industry,” Mr Lumsden said.
“As Aberdeen looks forward to its future embracing the transition from oil and gas to renewable sources of energy to meet the UK’s net-zero commitments, it is vital that all politicians and all political parties support Aberdeen in its bid for freeport status.
“I am therefore calling on the SNP candidates throughout the north-east of Scotland to support me and the Scottish Conservatives in our bid to obtain freeport status for Aberdeen.
“I am confident that Aberdeen’s bid will be aligned to the UK government’s innovative objectives around offshore wind, hydrogen and renewables.
“The opportunity for jobs cannot be understated and my understanding is that around 18,000 additional jobs in Aberdeen and the wider north-east of Scotland could be created as a result of Aberdeen having a freeport.
“As the energy capital of Europe, Aberdeen has strong foundations from which to build, especially as Aberdeen has had over 50 years of delivering oil and gas, which has led to a skill base second to none.
“The opportunity is now and Aberdeen must take that opportunity or suffer the consequences. The last thing Aberdeen and Scotland needs right now is for the SNP and Greens to refuse to back the cities ambition to have a freeport as jobs and livelihoods are very much at stake.”
The SNP’s Aberdeen Central candidate Kevin Stewart insisted the party had already put forward plans to support sustainable growth.
“This is blatant hypocrisy from the Scottish Conservatives,” he said.
“The Tories have dragged their heels on Scottish Government proposals to create green ports, holding back the success of Scottish ports and undermining workers’ protections.
“While freeports cannot undo the damage caused by Boris Johnson’s hard Brexit the Scottish Government green port model, which requires businesses to pay the real Living Wage, adopt the Scottish Business Pledge, commit to supporting sustainable and inclusive growth in local communities and contribute to Scotland’s just transition to net-zero, is widely backed by Scottish business.
“The Scottish Government launched its proposals in early March, but it requires both governments to sign up – the delay by the Tories is damaging Scottish businesses, leaving them months behind their English counterparts.
“Instead of working with the Scottish Government to benefit Scotland’s economy, the Tories have delayed and prevaricated to give businesses south of the border a heads start, and they proposed to significantly underfund Scottish Ports compared to those in England.”