The SNP has supported a motion by the head of the South Ayrshire Council which places constraints on any offer to create free ports in Scotland.
Councilor Peter Henderson, former Managing Director of HMRC on the Isle of Man, brought forward the motion which sought to address some of the concerns that accompanied an apparent ‘U-turn’ of the party by opening the door to the controversial policy of regulations more flexible. and controls.
Ayr has been touted for freeport status in recent years while Prestwick Airport was the last to close in 2012.
Opposing the freeport idea promoted by the UK government, Holyrood’s SNP said it would consider them if it met certain conditions earlier this year.
The motion from the weekend SNP conference was to ensure that the conditions around any freeport plan are much stronger.
This focuses on areas such as real living wages, local government support to maintain services, carbon emissions targets, union recognition, compensation for local communities, as well as tighter controls in place. health and safety, pollution, security and law enforcement.
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The free ports plan was proposed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his British government as a solution to some of the problems posed by Brexit.
However, free ports did not end in the UK until 2012 – ironically at Prestwick Airport – when legislation governing the policy was allowed to run out.
Councilor Henderson told the conference: “It may appear that free ports offer solutions, but without the proper controls or regulations in place, the negative impact on the economy and the environment, public safety, the economy. communities and Scotland’s reputation will be detrimental.
“The Westminster proposal is a direct attack on decentralization and local democracy. It centralizes control.
“He has no input from local authorities except to pick up the mess when things go wrong.
“The last free port in Scotland was at Prestwick Airport in 2012 and it should be noted that free ports are closed in Europe and around the world. Only Britain seems to see them as a savior.
“These are tax havens with an area technically not in the country and are associated with crime at all levels, money laundering, counterfeiting, banned substances and, for example in Europe, the storage of art. Fly.”
Cllr Henderson pointed out that the proposed free ports were less regulated than previous versions.
He continued: “There is no guarantee that companies operating in a free port will pay the real living wage, and without union recognition there are no controls for workers, pensions or health and safety. .
“The local government doesn’t earn anything because there will be no pricing fees, and what if there is an incident, like a chemical spill?
“How will the local government be compensated for dealing with this?” What happens to local employment? What if the local industry ships to the free port area or moves to another part of the country?
“What benefit can be gained from achieving zero emissions targets if there are no controls in place?
“Especially if they cannot be enforced. Business controls and registration in the UK and Scotland need to be in place, so that action can be taken in the event of a business leaving or defaulting.
“Zone security controls must be in place and enforced, not only for the diversion of tariffs on duty-free products that can be imported and destroy local economies, but if they are illegal. “
Delegates voted by 476 to 16 that “without the six requirements set out above in their entirety, free ports should not be established or permitted in Scotland”.
The leader of the Conservative opposition in South Ayrshire, Councilor Martin Dowey, has been a strong supporter of granting freeport status to the region.
Earlier this year he said he wrote Mr Johnson asking him for freeport status for Ayr, Troon, Prestwick Airport and Newton Goods Yard.
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