Could Orkney Be A Green Port?

  • paying the real Living Wage
  • adopting the Scottish Business Pledge
  • committing to supporting sustainable and inclusive growth in local communities
  • contributing to Scotland’s just transition to net zero

These are the key components of the Scottish Government’s plans to create Green Ports.

Over the next couple of months plans will be firmed up so that interested parties will be able to apply to be one of Scotland’s Green Ports.

The Scottish Government plans, put together under the leadership of Trade Minister Ivan McKee, have taken the UK Government’s Freeport agenda and adapted them to suit the vision and values of Scotland. Rejected is any form of using these specified economic areas to push down wages or evade tax.

Ivan McKee said:

“The reputation of freeports across the world is mixed, with concerns about deregulation and risks of criminality, tax evasion and reductions in workers’ rights raised. That is not a model nor an approach that this Scottish Government will sign up to or allow here in Scotland.

“And it is clear that freeports cannot and will not undo the damage being caused to Scotland’s economy by the UK Government’s decision to take us out of the EU, the world’s biggest single market.

“Instead, we propose to take the freeport model and apply Scotland’s priorities to it, so that it meets our ambition to deliver a net zero, wellbeing economy that upholds the highest standards of environmental protections and fair work practices and supports our strategy of building clusters of high productivity businesses across Scotland’s regions.

“We have listened to what businesses and communities have said and there is an appetite for new ways to support our economy through the recovery.

“The Scottish green port model will be an exemplar, adopting best practice which helps deliver our net-zero emissions and fair work principles, alongside supporting regeneration and innovation ambitions.”

The idea of Orkney putting itself forward as an ‘Innovation’ Freeport was discussed at the Sustainable Orkney online conference in 2020 – Orkney – An ‘Innovation’ FREEPORT ?

Before launching their plans, the Scottish Government conducted a survey. The responses were from:

  • Business: 13
  • Local Authorities: 11
  • Others: 15

Scotland’s economic performance – economic development zones: survey analysis

Orkney Harbour Authority was one of the respondents, stating:

From our point of view it is vital that this is linked with the current timetables and targets for climate change. In particular the well-known timetable for the ScotWind round of offshore wind developments – most of which are located around Orkney coasts and tie in with the facilities that will be constructed , as detailed in our Harbours Masterplan – is a key strategic leverage for considering freeports etc.

Scapa Flow

Trade unions are quite rightly concerned about Freeports. Commenting on the problems of Freeports, Unison said:

Enterprise Areas have failed to live up to the claims made for them or at the very least the claims remain unproven, across the UK. There is good evidence to support the criticism that they displace investment from other areas rather than generate new investment. There is scarce evidence that they have provided value for money and indeed most participants in the recent review felt there was no reason for their continuation.

Freeports are based on the same rationale but present an even greater risk of ‘turbo-charging’ inequality and uneven development within a region or nation. There are currently approximately 3,500 freeports worldwide, including 80 within the EU. While these vary in type (and the UK Government’s proposition is not precise), what they are in essence is on-shore tax havens, which function as a state within a state, outside of the normal application of laws about customs duties, import/export, planning, construction, tax, business rates and labour.

Ivan McKee stressed in his Ministerial statement to the Scottish Parliament that Scotland’s Green Ports are not a rebranding of the UK Government’s Freeport.

Ivan McKee said:

“We won’t be engaging with any economic model or mechanism that allows for a ‘race to the bottom’.

“Instead, the Scottish green port model will be an exemplar, adopting best practice which helps deliver our net zero and fair work principles, alongside supporting regeneration and innovation ambitions.”

There are, of course, many ports in Scotland extremely interested in the option to become a Green Port and the various incentives that they would be able to apply for to meet the economic opportunities of having that status.

It looks likely that everything will be ready by March and a prospectus published for all those interested in applying for Green Port status in Scotland.

The Scottish green port model will include the following key features:

  • The application of clear conditions which ensure these zones contribute to sustainable and inclusive growth.
  • These conditions will centre on specific commitments being made by applicants, and subsequent obligations placed upon successful applicants, linked to a dual commitment to supporting decarbonisation and fair work.
  • These conditions will include payment of the real Living Wage and adoption of the Scottish Business Pledge by the operator of the zone and all new businesses operating within the zone boundary benefitting from any governmental assistance through devolved or reserved tax incentives.
  • Applicants or applicant partnerships and new beneficiary businesses setting up in the zone would also be expected to demonstrate how they are contributing to Scotland’s just transition to net zero emissions and a low carbon economy, for example, meeting certain standards related to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and waste.

You can watch the Ministerial Statement here and the questions from MSPs.

Orkney has a strong reputation in Renewables

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

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