Free Ports

– in the Scottish Parliament on 23rd September 2021.

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Photo of Sharon Dowey Sharon Dowey Conservative

3. To ask the First Minister whether she will provide an update on the Scottish Government’s work with the United Kingdom Government to create free ports in Scotland. (S6F-00271)

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

The green port model is an adaptation of the free port model that places a strong emphasis on fair work and the move to a net zero economy. The Secretary of State for Scotland wrote on 6 September to confirm that the UK Government would not support green ports for Scotland and would not accept our proposals for higher labour or environmental standards as part of its free port model. All mention of green ports was to be avoided and reference to payment of the real living wage by employers benefiting from tax incentives was not to be permitted.

Fair work and net zero are central tenets of Scotland’s future economy and we are simply not prepared to see those commitments watered down by the Tory UK Government, so we will now progress plans to develop a green port model that is tailored to Scotland’s economy, workers and communities.

Photo of Sharon Dowey Sharon Dowey Conservative

The SNP refused to acknowledge the benefits of any kind of port in Scotland for a long time. As a result of the Scottish Government’s refusal to work co-operatively with the UK Government, it would appear that funding is available for only one Scottish green port, due to the increased operating costs of that model. Can the First Minister confirm whether there will be only a single green port in Scotland? If not, where will the additional funding for the remainder come from?

The First Minister:

We will continue to develop and set out our proposals on green ports.

The issue was not about the SNP not being prepared to see advantages and benefits; we were simply not prepared to compromise on fair work or the environment. If, as I am sure is the case for the member, the Tories want to see the free port model go ahead in Scotland, the question has to be: what objection could they possibly have to fair work and environmental conditions being built into it? Perhaps that gives the game away.

There is another aspect. It was crucial, obviously, that Scotland would have a fair allocation of funding to help to establish ports, but actually the UK Government’s recent offer failed even to provide an equivalent to what it is making available to free ports in England.

If the UK Government had been serious, all those issues could have been addressed, but that was up to the UK Government. We will continue to take forward our plans for green ports, with fair work and environmental progress absolutely at their heart.

Photo of Pam Gosal Pam Gosal Conservative

I am sorry, Presiding Officer. My light went on, but it is for a supplementary question later on.