The fallout between the UK and Scottish governments over “freeports” with special tax status could delay the introduction of more than 50,000 jobs, it has been warned.
Forth Ports chief executive Charles Hammond said his company, which controls ports in Dundee, Fife, Grangemouth, Rosyth and London, was still “incredibly keen” to develop a site in Scotland.
The proposals would encompass key ports, industrial complexes and logistics centres along the north and south shores of the Firth of Forth, including Grangemouth and Port of Leith.
The company estimates as many as 50,000 “direct and indirect” jobs could be created if it could be established in the Firth of Forth.
Freeports are internationally recognised sites usually set up at harbours or airports with the ability to defer tax until products are moved on.
The UK Government said it wanted to work with Holyrood ministers for a port in Scotland, but the SNP wanted to change the name to “green ports” and set conditions for pay, working practices and funding.
Scotland to go alone
We revealed in March how the UK Government was prepared to step in and create one without the Scottish Government if an agreement could not be reached.
Talks finally broke down last week.
Mr Hammond said he was “disappointed” work between Holyrood and Westminster on the schemes had turned sour, but his company still wanted to go ahead with proposals.
Its London Thames site, he said, was already established as a freeport, which is generating interest from partners and investors.
Dundee, Peterhead and Aberdeen ports have all been identified as areas which could bid for the green or freeports.
Ivan McKee.Scotland’s Trade Minister, Ivan McKee, accused the UK Government of trying to “dilute a strong commitment to fair work” by not committing to pay the real living wage of £9.50 an hour as well as other net-zero conditions.
Speaking to MSPs on Holyrood’s economy and fair work committee on Wednesday, Forth Port boss Mr Hammond was asked how he felt about the fallout between the two governments.
He said: “It is disappointing the Scottish and UK governments were not able to reach an agreement on this.
“We have already launched the Thames freeport, we understand how it works and are already getting interested parties who will make and distribute goods in the south east of England.
“So for me, there is great potential, especially in the Firth of Forth which would attract the kind of economic incentives the UK government have talked about.
“What format that takes, we will need to wait and see but we are still extremely keen to promote some type of freeport zone in the Firth of Forth.
“Our preliminary figure suggests a freeport zone in the Firth of Forth could create around 50,000 direct and indirect jobs.”
The UK Government intends to move quickly with a bidding process.
It is expected there will be just one freeport, since talks broke down, which could be on track by the end of the year.
The Scottish Government is expected to outline more detail of its plans soon.