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The British government plans to proceed with the construction of at least one free port in Scotland over the objections of the sacked Scottish government.
A British official familiar with the decision said on Friday that it reflected frustration and disappointment over Edinburgh’s refusal to support its vision in special trade areas with favorable tax and other policies, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson said was “transforming” will offer benefits.
But the plan to proceed without the approval of the independent Scottish National Party government in Edinburgh, accusations that London is increasingly willing to bypass administrations, an approach described by some as a ‘muscular trade union’.
Ministers of the SNP and the pro-union government in Wales have both concern expressed on the economic consequences of British port plans and in July jointly warned that any unilateral move to establish themselves in their nations would undermine the “devolution”.
Edinburgh insists that any port should make a contribution to improving wages and combating climate change, which he calls ‘central principles’ of his economic policy. However, Alister Jack, the Conservative British secretary of Scotland, did not want to include the real life wage commitments and include the objectives of the carbon emissions exemption plan.
Edinburgh plans instead to develop an alternative “green port” model, despite a separate Scottish scheme that is likely to have a limited impact on trade competitiveness, as powers over customs tariffs and regulations, VAT and national insurance is reserved to London.
However, the unilateral establishment of a free port in Scotland by the United Kingdom may also be hampered by the ultimate control of the close government over planning and local tax policies.
British officials hope the successful creation of eight free ports in England announced in March budget will increase the pressure on the SNP ministers of ports and local leaders to drop their objections.
British officials insist that jobs created by the territories will be paid relatively well and that they will be subject to high environmental standards.
“We tend to take the objections raised by the Scottish Government as red herrings,” the official said, familiar with the plans. “Our door stays open when there is a change of heart.”
Many economists and trade analysts are skeptical about the benefits of free port and say that in relatively open economies, they tend to shift their activities rather than expand them. The United Kingdom had seven ports between 1984 and 2012, but closed them due to concerns that they were being used for tax evasion.
Ivan McKee, Scotland’s Home Secretary, said on Friday that Edinburgh had tried unsuccessfully to work with the British government on the basis of a ‘joint draft green port prospectus’.
‘We are not prepared to implement a port model [does] does not include a fixed commitment to fair work and net zero [emissions], ”McKee said.
Although the Scottish Government had no choice but to continue with its own Green Harbor scheme, it is awaiting details of the British proposals, he said.
In a sign of concern about free ports within the ruling SNP, delegates from its autumn conference last month supported a motion calling for strict conditions to be attached to such areas, which in the past were ‘a haven for crime, such as money laundering and human trafficking ”.