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Brexit news: SNP row as Boris Johnson ignites fury with radical freeport plan for Scotland | UK | News

The Government is currently making plans to invite direct bids for Scottish port authorities to become freeports. The move would mean that the ports would receive significant tax breaks and exemptions from customs obligations. It could also boost the economy and create thousands of new jobs. A number of Scottish ports have welcomed the move that would grant them the special status.

However, the SNP is very much against the model proposed by the officials in Whitehall.

Scottish nationalists have now proposed an alternative to Boris Johnson’s plan, which is a key part of the Prime Minister’s efforts to boost global trade in post-Brexit Britain.

The Scottish politicians want to rebrand the ports as the so-called “greenports”, which they claim would have higher environmental and employment standards.

However, according to The Telegraph, the SNP demands are seen as superficial in London and part of a ploy that would allow nationalist ministers to claim credit for the economic benefits a largely Treasury-funded project will bring.

More discussions are set to take place between the UK and Scotland this week.

And it’s been reported that a deal that would create two freeports in Scotland is already on the table.

However, Boris Johnson and his government are now planning to cut the SNP administration out of the decision process and create Scottish freeports unilaterally.

If the Whitehall officials go ahead with the plan it will very likely spark fury among the SNP with fresh claims that Boris Johnson has launched an attack on devolution.

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A UK Government source said: “Freeports bring huge potential to boost the Scottish economy and create high-quality jobs.

“We want to work with the Scottish Government to deliver the best deal for Scotland. But that’s going to be difficult as long as the Scottish Government continue to undermine the Freeport brand.

“As things stand, it appears the Scottish Government are seeking to manufacture a constitutional row rather than work with us on what’s best for the economy. Scotland’s economic recovery is too important to be derailed by irresponsible nationalism”.

Jenny Laing and Andy Kille, the joint leaders of Aberdeen Council, have backed the UK Government by saying that the freeport scheme presents an “unprecedented” opportunity for the city of Aberdeen.

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They added that the freeports name “resonates across the globe” and “must not be altered”.

A recent study has shown that the scheme could create as many as 22,000 jobs in Aberdeen alone.

The SNP, however, have claimed that freeports are associated with criminality, tax evasion, reduction in worker’s rights and smuggling.

On top of that, the SNP wants the UK Government to change their plans for a “Scottish context” and to avoid a “race to the bottom” on workers’ rights and the environment.

The Scottish ministers also want the freeports to be obliged to pay the real living wage, sign up to ‘Scottish Business Pledge’ and promise to “contribute to Scotland’s transition to net-zero”.

Boris Johnson’s government wants a UK-wide system and says that the SNP demands are irrelevant as freeports will create thousands of high-quality jobs.

The UK Government does have the power to establish freeports without the consent of the Scottish Government.

However, the SNP could block any new developments by using their powers over planning.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “The Scottish Government remains committed to working in partnership with the UK Government, however we cannot sign up to a UK policy which does not respect devolution, undermines the Scottish economy and fails to provide equivalent funding to what is on offer for ports in England.

“We need the UK Government to work with us to ensure their proposals best meet the needs of business and communities in Scotland. Should the UK Government move forward with a proposal that does not include a commitment on fair work and net-zero, the Scottish Government will not support this initiative.

“Our fair work and net-zero conditions are not simply rhetoric but crucial to developing a model that is fit for the 21st century and can garner support across Scotland.

“We will challenge any attempts by the UK Government to impose their model in Scotland by legislating in devolved areas, which would be a breach of the spirit of the devolution settlement and we strongly encourage the UK Government to work with us to ensure we can deliver green ports in Scotland.”

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