The Scottish Greens have slammed a deal between Holyrood and Westminster to introduce two new freeports in Scotland as “greenwashing”.
Finance spokesperson Ross Greer criticised the £52 million agreement as a “corporate giveaway” despite his party being in government with the SNP.
He said the Greens “won’t have anything to do” with the freeports and claimed they are “essentially tax havens” for large corporations.
But Scotland’s finance secretary Kate Forbes defended the deal and said the SNP has worked to ensure firms investing will have to meet net zero environmental targets.
Freeports are special enterprise zones which offer lower tariffs and tax breaks to companies with the aim of driving growth.
They are being promoted by Boris Johnson’s administration as part of their UK-wide levelling up agenda.
Dundee, Aberdeen, Peterhead, Cromarty Firth and Grangemouth have all been touted as possible areas for investment.
But Mr Greer claimed freeports are often associated with low wages and crime, and added that major firms will not be forced to pay workers fairly.
He said: “The Scottish Greens won’t have anything to do with the establishment of these so-called green freeports.
“To be clear this is just greenwashing, there’s nothing genuinely green about them.
“Freeports are a really effective way to give tax relief and to throw public money at multinational companies who are already doing their best to avoid tax.
The west of Scotland MSP fears oil and gas firms who invest in Scottish freeports will find ways to avoid meeting long-term environmental targets.
He said: “There are major oil and gas companies who have made that pledge – they don’t actually have any serious plans to meet it. No one seriously expects them to.
“The Scottish Greens want to protect people and the planet from this kind of exploitation by corporations. That’s exactly why the SNP used to oppose freeports.”
Mr Greer continued: “It’s deeply naïve for anyone to think that out of the goodness of their heart these large corporations, who are seeking to maximise their profits, would suddenly do stuff like the environmental protections that we’d expect of them.
“The whole point of freeports is to reduce regulation, is to reduce tax, so that these companies can maximise their profits.”
He added: “The Greens will have nothing to do with this corporate giveaway.”
Defending the deal, Kate Forbes said: “I am pleased we have been able to reach an agreement on a joint approach that recognises the distinct needs of Scotland’s economy and enshrines the Scottish Government’s commitment to achieving net zero and embedding fair work practises through public investment.
“The Scottish Government will have an equal say on all bids, and will expect bidders to adhere to fair work practises including payment of the Real Living Wage.”
Tory minister Michael Gove said: “This is a truly exciting moment for Scotland, and I am delighted we will be working together with the Scottish Government to set up two new green freeports.”
The winning bids are expected to be announced this summer.
Agreement on two greenports in Scotland follows negotiations with UK Government in which we secured
⚓️ An equal say in all decisions
💷 Double the original funding
🌳 Bidders to publish robust decarbonisation plans
🧍🏻♀️Bidders to adhere to fair work (inc real living wage)
— Kate Forbes MSP (@_KateForbes) February 14, 2022