Peterhead caught in a political storm over green ports

A political storm over funding and commitments to fair working conditions and net-zero principals could cast doubt over Peterhead’s prospects of becoming one of Scotland’s green ports.

By Kevin McRoberts
Thursday, 23rd September 2021, 12:34 pm
Updated Thursday, 23rd September 2021, 12:34 pm
Peterhead, along with Aberdeen, has expressed an interest in becoming a green port.
Peterhead, along with Aberdeen, has expressed an interest in becoming a green port.

Earlier this year Aberdeen and Peterhead jointly submitted one of nine notes of interest in developing a green port, where operators and businesses in the zone can benefit from a package of tax and customs incentives.

It’s the Scottish Government’s version of the UK Government’s freeport model, which it says has been adapted to fit the Scottish context and help deliver a net-zero emissions economy and a Fair Work First approach, while supporting innovation, trade and inclusive growth.

However, Scottish Government Business Minister Ivan McKee says a letter from the Secretary of State for Scotland Alister Jack has not provided a firm UK Government commitment on payment of the real living wage and net-zero conditionality in the operation of green ports in Scotland.

And the offer also fails to provide equivalent set-up funding for Scotland to that offered for the UK Government’s favoured freeport model for England.

As a result the Scottish Government says it will now go it alone to progress plans to develop a green port model which is designed to meet the specific needs of Scotland’s economy.

But Banff and Buchan MP David Duguid claimed the SNP had turned their back on Peterhead after walking out on talks to establish new freeports in Scotland.

He said it was ridiculous that the SNP had refused to work with the UK Government on an initiative which could create thousands of jobs in the North-east.

Mr Duguid added: “The SNP have once again shown their true colours by refusing to work with the UK Government. It’s absolutely ridiculous they have taken this standpoint despite a strong appetite from North-east businesses as well as the benefits freeports would bring for the economy and jobs.

“The SNP have turned their back on Peterhead and the North-east all because of their constant obsession with separation.

“I’m extremely disappointed and frustrated that the Scottish Government have refused to work with the UK Government on such a beneficial initiative.”

Not surprisingly, Mr McKee views the collapse of talks differently.

He said: “I have been clear that any model implemented in Scotland must include a firm commitment to conditionality around fair work and net-zero. These are central tenets of Scotland’s future economy and principles we cannot compromise on.

"The UK Government’s offer does not reflect this, provide fair set-up funding, or indeed recognise the vital role the real living wage plays in secure pay and employment contracts.

“It is difficult to comprehend why UK Ministers would seek to dilute a strong commitment to fair work, including payment of the real living wage, when seeking to implement their freeport policy in Scotland.

"With just weeks to go before COP26, the UK Government should be working with us to help deliver a net-zero economy given both governments have statutory targets to meet on reducing our carbon emissions.”