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Chamber and committees

Question reference: S5W-36084

  • Asked by: Kenneth Gibson, MSP for Cunninghame North, Scottish National Party
  • Date lodged: 11 March 2021
  • Current status: Initiated by the Scottish Government. Answered by Ivan McKee on 18 March 2021


To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on progress on its proposals for fair, green ports in Scotland.


It was my clear expectation that the bidding process for green ports in Scotland would begin with publication of an Applicant Prospectus this month.

Since the UK Government announced its intention to establish freeports around the UK, I and this government have engaged in that process assiduously and meaningfully. We wanted to ensure that Scotland was in a position to benefit from this policy but in a way which contributed to the Scottish Government’s wider economic ambitions. That is why we have spent months working up a fair, green ports model – as I announced to Parliament – to deliver fair work and enable a just transition to net zero. Scottish Government officials have engaged significantly with their counterparts in the UK Government to develop this model and I have had regular and positive engagement with relevant portfolio Ministers on it. Our Applicant Prospectus, which has been drafted jointly with the UK Government, reflects these dual objectives.

We have been ready to launch the bidding process in Scotland since 3 March and, as far as the Scottish Government is concerned, the Applicant Prospectus is ready for publication now. A link to an abridged draft Applicant Prospectus, which is currently languishing in the UK Government clearance process, can be found at:

We have been working with the UK Government on this throughout in good faith.

We are keen to ensure that Scotland could secure two green ports and that our successful bidders are treated fairly and equitably with freeports in England in terms of set up funding. We note recent announcements that the UK Government intends to establish “at least one Freeport in Scotland”. We are disappointed that we were not advised of this ahead of such announcements being made.

Regrettably, it would now appear that there is a lack of willingness on the part of the UK Government to sign up to our green port ambitions on fair work and net zero, and we have to assume that they are not as committed as we are to protecting workers rights; protecting the environment; and getting on with action to drive economic recovery. To be clear, our requirements for green ports to include implementation of Fair Work First and a robust plan for transition to net zero are red lines. We will not support any model that does not include these essential elements. We will not engage in a race to the bottom.

As we are now fast approaching the start of the pre-election period in Scotland on 25 March, there is the real prospect of a potentially damaging delay until after the Scottish Election in May. Therefore, if we do not have confirmation that the UK Government are ready to launch the Applicant Prospectus by close of business on Monday 22 March, we may have to conclude that the UK Government has effectively withdrawn from this process. If that is the case, I would call on them to confirm that and explain its decision to Scotland’s ports, airports, local authorities and the wider business community.