Lothian MSP urges Scottish Government to rethink opposition to freeports

LOTHIAN Tory MSP Miles Briggs has called on the SNP to think again about its opposition to UK government plans for controversial freeports.

He claims establishing a zone free from tariffs and customs rules in Leith would boost the economy in Edinburgh and beyond.

Conservative ministers at Westminster launched a bidding process south of the border for freeport status in November, saying the UK’s departure from the European Union presented opportunities to create hubs for trade, innovation and commerce to regenerate communities in industrial heartlands. The government says it wants to set up ten such freeports across the UK, including at least one in Scotland.

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But the Scottish Government would need to relax planning rules for their development and ministers have indicated they may reject the idea, questioning whether such zones add any value.

Mr Briggs said: “I am very disappointed that the SNP are firmly against freeport status for any ports in Scotland.

“Freeport status for the Port of Leith would boost manufacturing and service trade in Leith and the South East of Scotland.

“Promoting business and trade is extremely important in 2021 as Scotland recover from Covid-19. It is vital that we make the most of our opportunities, now that we have left the European Union and the SNPs narrow-minded anti-Brexit agenda is harming Scottish businesses.”

Freeports are effectively zones designated as being outside a country's borders for tax purposes, meaning the goods can be manufactured, imported and exported without facing tariffs or customs duties.

Miles Briggs claims a freeport in Leith would boost the area's economy

Mr Briggs warned in August that Leith risked losing out in the race for freeport status after Aberdeen was touted as the most likely location north of the border.

Forth Ports chief executive Charles Hammond said at the time: "Forth Ports are looking at the potential opportunities and benefits that our current or future customers may obtain from freeport status at any of our locations. We are engaging with the relevant government departments and industry organisations as the thinking around freeports is further developed."

The deadline for applications in England in February 5 and the first freeports are expected to be established later this year.

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