Ayrshire could lose out on jobs and investment due to the Scottish Government’s decision to reject freeport plans, says South Scotland MSP Sharon Dowey.

Freeports, special economic zones which can be airports or sea ports, remove customs rules, such as taxes, on imports in a bid to encourage economic activity and increase manufacturing.

The UK Government had planned for two freeports in Scotland, but those plans have now been scuppered due to the break-down in negotiations.

The Scottish Government has decided to pursue its own version, which they’re calling green ports because of concerns about the environmental standards and also around issues of pay.

Last week at First Minister’s Questions, Nicola Sturgeon said: “The UK Government would not accept our proposals for higher labour or environmental standards as part of its free port model. All mention of green ports was to be avoided and reference to payment of the real living wage by employers benefitting from tax incentives was not to be permitted.”

Conservative MSP Dowey claims that the Scottish Government’s green port proposals would be more expensive and funding from the UK Government would only stretch to one and Ayrshire could miss out to other areas.

She said: “Ayrshire could benefit hugely from a free port, or even a green port, but the way the Scottish Government are going about it, we won’t see any movement for many months to come and even then, Ayrshire risks losing out to bigger sites in the central belt.”

The Ayrshire Chamber of Commerce wants clarity either way, and quickly. Val Russell, the chief executive, said: “A number of ports across Scotland have spent considerable time, effort and money on organising their bids and it’s vital that businesses in Ayrshire now get clarity from both governments on the next steps in the process.

“It was an incredibly disappointing development recently that a shared agreement on the design and implementation of a freeports model for Scotland could not be reached between the Scottish and UK Governments.

“The UK Government’s decision to move forward on its own, whilst disappointing, will be welcomed by many ports who have invested significant time and money in anticipation for bidding for the status. We need to receive details urgently of how businesses can bid and what the next steps are. We cannot afford any further delays especially when Scotland is already behind other parts of the UK, impacting on our ability to attract global investment.

“We also understand the Scottish Government intends to pursue its Green Ports model. Business will need the detail of how this will operate and will urgently need confirmation from both governments that investment incentives will be mirrored across the UK.”