Post-Brexit Freeport plan risks undermining decentralization, Scotland and Wales warn
Ministers were warned that they would undermine decentralization if they created new free ports in Scotland and Wales without the support of decentralized governments.
Scottish government ministers have made it clear that they “will challenge any attempt by the British government to impose its model on Scotland by legislating in decentralized areas”, insisting that such a move would be a “violation of the spirit of the decentralization regulation ”.
Holyrood Affairs Minister Ivan McKee issued the warning at the same time he and Wales ministers demanded clarification on the funding of free ports – special economic zones offering tax breaks and lower tariffs for businesses as part of the UK government’s “leveling” program.
The Scottish and Welsh administrations fear being harmed on this point, compared to the funding made available for free ports in England.
A UK government source called the Scottish government’s claims “nonsense”.
The source said: “Rather than working constructively with us to create much needed jobs in Scotland, the Scottish government would rather waste time playing political games.”
Mr McKee, however, insisted that the funding proposed by Westminster is “unfair and puts the ports in Scotland at a disadvantage compared to their competitors in England”.
In a letter to Scottish Secretary Alister Jack, he claimed that the model proposed by Westminster would see British ministers decide on the location of free ports in Scotland, only for capital funding to come from the Holyrood budget.
He told the Scottish Secretary: ‘Collaboration and joint work between devolved and reserved skills requires joint decision making, and I would ask you to reconsider this position and accept joint determination, or I have to conclude that you do. an offer that you want us. to reject.”
The minister insisted that the Scottish government “remains committed to working in partnership with the British government” on free ports.
But he added: “We cannot adhere to a British policy which does not respect decentralization, undermines the Scottish economy and does not provide funding equivalent to what is offered to ports in England.”
“British ministers have failed to work with us to ensure that their proposals best meet the needs of businesses and communities in Scotland.”
He also said that if the UK government goes ahead with plans that do not include fair labor and net zero emissions commitments, “the Scottish government will not support this initiative”.
Mr McKee said: ‘To ensure that there is no race to the bottom on workers’ rights and the environment, the Scottish government will challenge any attempt by the UK government to impose its model in Scotland by legislating in decentralized areas, which would violate the spirit of the devolution regulation.
Meanwhile, Welsh Finance Minister Rebecca Evans said the government in Cardiff had ‘systematically tried to engage constructively with the UK government and come to an agreement on a way to implement ports Franks in Wales that is in line with our priorities and values as a government ”.
But she added: “The UK government is pressuring the Welsh government to redirect its resources to provide a political priority for the UK government.
“This approach is unacceptable to us, and we have made it clear that the UK government must demonstrate the same level of financial commitment to free ports in Wales as in England.”
Welsh Economy Minister Vaughan Gething added: “The UK government’s continued refusal to engage constructively suggests it would rather risk undermining decentralization by implementing a flawed freeport without our support rather than working with us to deliver benefits to Wales. “
A UK government spokesperson said: “The UK government is committed to bringing free ports to Scotland and Wales.”
“It has enormous potential to boost the Welsh and Scottish economies and create hundreds of highly skilled jobs.
“We know there is strong support from stakeholders, who are eager to see progress. We hope the Scottish and Welsh governments will decide to work with us on this. “