The UK and Scottish governments have struck a deal to establish two green freeports in Scotland, following what was described by the latter as robust discussions in recent months and ahead of Boris Johnson’s expected visit to Scotland on Monday.
The Scottish government had opposed the concept of freeports, which are special economic zones that give tax benefits and other incentives to enterprises, and instead advocated green ports, which are centered on low-emission sectors.
According to the proposal, the new hubs will support the regeneration of communities across Scotland, bring jobs, and support UK government work to level-up all 4 corners of the United Kingdom. Any sea, air or rail port can apply as part of a consortium with other businesses, the council, and other relevant public bodies. However, the green freeports will have net-zero targets at the heart as prospective bidders will have to make a pledge to reach net zero by 2045.
The bidding process will open in spring and close in summer, after which the bids will be assessed, and the successful locations announced. It’s hoped that the new sites will be operational by spring 2023. Officials from the UK and Scottish governments will jointly assess the prospective bids to ensure they meet their shared goals, and ministers will have an equal say in the final selection of the locations.
As a result of the recent negotiations, UK ministers are expected to provide up to £52m ($70.3m) in seed funding to help establish green freeports in Scotland, which is in line with funding offered to freeports across England. Freeports are centred around one or more air, rail, or seaports but can extend up to 45km beyond the port. The term “green freeports” reflects the Scottish Government’s distinctive net zero aspirations. The UK government will continue to use the term “freeports” for its programme in the rest of the UK.