Golden Brexit win! UK and Scotland sign £52m deal –huge breakthrough after SNP ‘dithering’

Rishi Sunak discusses freeports announcement

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Boris Johnson’s Government is promoting freeports – special economic zones offering tax breaks and lower tariffs for businesses – as part of the Conservative Party’s continued post-Brexit “levelling up” agenda. A bidding process for the freeports will open over the coming weeks, with the aim of having the new sites in Scotland operational in spring 2023. The UK Government is putting forward £52million for the project. Bidders for the freeports will also have to pledge to reach net zero by 2045.

Ministers from both Governments will have a say in the assessment and selection process for those bids.

The Scottish Government and the Treasury will make use of the tax powers available to them, including rates relied, to assist the new freeports.

Last year, the establishment of the freeports in Scotland looked in doubt after the Scottish Government warned UK ministers risked undermining devolution if they set them up without the backing of devolved Governments.

Scottish ministers later backed down and agreed to press ahead with an an alternative model called “green ports”, but under the new deal they would be known as “green freeports”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said freeports have the “power to be truly transformational” through the creation of jobs and investment opportunities.

He said: “Freeports will help to accelerate our plan to level up communities across the whole of the United Kingdom.

“They have the power to be truly transformational by creating jobs and investment opportunities to enable people to reach their potential.

“I am delighted that people across Scotland will reap the benefits that will come from having two new green freeports.”

Scottish Conservative MSP Liam Kerr, the shadow cabinet secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport in Holyrood, said the deal “will help unlock the economic potential of our ports and kickstart our recovery from the pandemic”.

“Months of SNP dithering and delays had cast doubt over whether these projects would ever get the go-ahead,” he said.

“But I’m pleased that the SNP Government have finally got behind the scheme and worked with the UK Government to deliver this golden opportunity for Scotland.”

Scotland’s Finance Secretary, 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 and enshrines the Scottish Government’s commitment to achieving net zero and embedding fair work practices through public investment.

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“Scotland has a rich history of innovative manufacturers and so, as we look to grasp the many opportunities of achieving net zero, the establishment of green freeports will help us create new green jobs, deliver a just transition and support our economic transformation.”

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove described the deal between the two countries as a “truly exciting moment for Scotland”.

He added green freeports will help inject “billions in the local economy” and echoed Mr Johnson’s comments of vast job creation.

Mr 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.

“Green freeports help inject billions into the local economy, while levelling up by creating jobs for local people, and opportunities for people all over the UK to flourish.

“By collaborating using opportunities like green freeports we can work to level up the whole of the UK and bring benefits and opportunities to communities that need it most.”

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