SNP ‘still grumpy’ over referendum result says Rees-Mogg
Holyrood had heavily criticised proposals to offer special tax breaks and develop streamlined customs procedures through more than half-a-dozen Singapore-style ports in England and has repeatedly stood firm against demands to adopt them in Scotland. Many ports throughout Scotland had thrown their support gaining freeport status, which would enable firms to import goods and then re-export them bypassing normal tax and customs rules, but during the SNP conference in November, delegates passed a motion condemning the plan.
The motion had stated freeports “cannot and will not offset the damage caused by Brexit” and raised fears that they would mean low-cost, low-wage, low-value opportunities “entirely at odds with the SNP’s ambition for Scotland’s economy”.
But SNP trade minister Ian Mckee, who recently described the freeports plan as a “shiny squirrel” designed to distract from the damage of Brexit, has now said that a version of freeports would be delivered north of the border.
He attempted to distance Scotland from Downing Street’s proposals, insisting they would be different and rebranding them “greenports”, providing more focus on reducing carbon emissions and protecting working conditions.
Mr Mckee insisted the UK plan would be adapted for a “Scottish context”, adding: “We will take the UK Government’s freeport model and apply Scotland’s values and priorities to it so that it meets our ambition to develop a net-zero economy and uphold the highest standard of environmental protections and fair work practices.
Brexit latest: Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP have made a ‘humiliating’ U-turn
“Scotland will turn freeports into sustainable, fair, greenports. We won’t be engaging with an economic model and mechanism that allows for a race to the bottom.
“Instead, the Scottish greenport model will be an exemplar, adopting best practice which helps to deliver on net-zero and fair work principles alongside supporting regeneration and innovation ambitions.”
But Maurice Golden, the economy spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives, ridiculed the sudden change of direction from the SNP, branding it a “screeching U-turn”.
He said: “This is a humiliating climbdown for the SNP. Just a few months ago, Ivan McKee was claiming that freeports are a “shiny squirrel” and the SNP conference backed a motion slamming them.
“This screeching SNP U-turn is very welcome. It seems they have finally realised that businesses are desperate to reap the benefits from freeports.”
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8.17am update: Nicola Sturgeon’s Brexit spending questioned as civil servant admits £49million left over
Nicola Sturgeon’s team have been questioned for not spending all of the £200million Brexit cash allocated for the transition period.
Alex Chisholm, permanent secretary at the Holyrood Cabinet Office, was asked how much the Scottish Government had been given to prepare for leaving the EU. Mr Chisholm said nearly £48million of the budget had not been spent.
Responding to Tory MP Sir Bernard Jenkin at the Public Accounts Committee, Mr Chisholm said: “The figure is in the order of about £200million and that’s going back to 2017.
“I think around about £48 or £49million remain to be spent this year.”
Mr Jenkin then said: “So they under spent on Brexit preparedness.
“What evidence is there that the Scottish Government has given the UK taxpayer value for money for what they spent?”
Mr Chisholm argues it was up to the Scottish Government to decide what the money is spent on.
8am update: Oh dear, Brussels! Nissan boss says Brexit trade deal gives car giant edge over rivals
Brexit has given Nissan a competitive advantage over its rivals, according to a senior official at the Japanese car giant.
Ashwani Gupta, the carmaker’s chief operating officer, said he believed the last-minute deal would “redefine” the UK’s auto industry. Mr Gupta said: “Brexit has brought the business continuity in the short-term, protects 75,000 jobs across Europe and most importantly – all of our models which we manufacture in Sunderland.”
Speaking from the company’s HQ in Japan, he said Nissan would continue investing in the UK, stressing that the company didn’t stop investing in the run-up to the UK leaving the EU.
He said Brexit had secured the sustainability of Nissan and improved competitiveness of the giant Sunderland factory.
Mr Gupta said: “Sunderland is one of the top three plants in the world for competitiveness for Nissan.
“Brexit gives us the competitive advantage in the UK and outside.”