The Scottish government seemed rather less excited about this central plank of Boris Johnson’s “Levelling up” agenda, noting a “partnership agreement” had been achieved following months of “robust discussions”.
However, the bottom line is that the UK government will provide up to £52 million to support the new Green Freeports at two locations to be decided.
Johnson claimed the move had “the power to be truly transformational by creating jobs and investment opportunities”, while a “delighted” UK Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said Green Freeports would “help inject billions into the local economy”.
And Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes said she was “pleased we have been able to reach an agreement on a joint approach that recognises the distinct needs of Scotland and enshrines the Scottish government’s commitment to achieving net-zero and embedding fair work practices through public investment”.
The actual benefits of “Freeports”, as they will be known outside Scotland, remain to be seen. However, they are an attempt by the Westminster government to stimulate the economy for the benefit of all.
As such, it would have been an act of folly had the Scottish government refused this investment because of its political differences with Johnson or concerns about a Westminster ‘power grab’. Thankfully, the deal shows a willingness to bend.
And the UK government’s acceptance of distinctively branded “Green Freeports” in Scotland shows a willingness on their part to let the Scottish government do things its way, at least to an extent.
The Scottish government will need to work hard to demonstrate that its insistence on a different name has real meaning after their partners in government, the Scottish Greens, claimed the environmental ambitions of the project amounted to little more than “greenwashing”.
That said, at a time when Scotland’s economy requires all the help it can get, we need both our governments to act in a responsible, grown-up way and avoid continual petty bickering ruining what has to be at least a working relationship.
If the national interest is to be served, both sides will need to make compromises on the practical business of running the country, even as they head towards an almighty clash over a second independence referendum.