Montrose Port Steers Away From Freeport Bid

Montrose Port will not make a bid to become a Scottish freeport despite enormous economic benefits highlighted in the March budget.

Freeports are special economic zones with favourable tariffs, customs and VAT arrangements that make it easier for international trade.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said freeports would bring “investment, trade and most importantly, jobs right across the country”.

He announced eight English freeports as he delivered his Budget.  The Scottish Government is yet to start a bidding process north of the border.

Montrose has been mulling a bid for several months and a motion of support was passed by Angus Council last summer.

The motion, brought by the council’s economic development spokesperson Braden Davy, said a freeport at Montrose Port would create “huge opportunities for Angus and the wider area in delivering growth and providing investment and new jobs”.

Captain Tom Hutchison, chief executive of Montrose Port Authority, said making a bid would have required a “substantial investment”.  He said: “We spent a great deal of time exploring the freeport proposal, including consulting with various stakeholders.

“However, with a substantial investment required to submit a bid, and with no concrete plans from the government on how many ports would be granted freeport status, it was decided that it would not be financially viable to submit a bid at this time.

“We wish any Scottish port, particularly those in the north-east, success should they decide to bid.  We look forward to more information and clarity coming from the government on the freeport structure in the coming months.”

Mr Davy said: “Angus Council and all councillors were united in our support for Montrose Port (making a bid).

“Whilst they’ve come to the conclusion a freeport isn’t suitable just now, we will continue to do everything we can to make Montrose an economic powerhouse of the north-east.

“I hope we can throw our weight behind fellow north-east applications to ensure a freeport does come to our region, providing increased jobs and opportunities.”

Scotland has been guaranteed at least one freeport, but Trade Minister Ivan McKee this week wrote to Chief Secretary to the Treasury Steve Barclay to state the country should have two.  The Scottish Government has previously stated it will adopt the criteria for freeports, which it is calling green ports.

It will be necessary for operators and businesses to pay the real living wage, adopt the Scottish Business Pledge, commit to supporting sustainable and inclusive growth in local communities and contribute to Scotland’s just transition to net zero.

The prospects for the green ports is expected to be published on the week commencing March 15.  A 12-week bidding process is anticipated.

Charles Hammond, chief executive of Port of Dundee operator Forth Ports, said it was considering bids for Dundee and Grangemouth.

He said: “Freeports are a regeneration tool and it would have benefits for the Port of Dundee and the wider city.  We are looking forward to bidding getting started.

“We’re still talking to Dundee City Council, Michelin Scotland Innovation Parc and other bodies to put together a bid for Dundee.

“I think the industry would say there should be two in Scotland.  Our commitment to invest and grow Dundee will continue irrespective of what happens.”

English freeports will be based at East Midlands Airport, Felixstowe & Harwich, Humber, Liverpool City Region, Plymouth, Solent, Thames and Teeside.

Mr Sunak said freeports was a “policy on a scale we’ve never done before” adding they would unlock billions of pounds of private sector investment.

He said: “Freeports are special economic zones with different rules to make it easier and cheaper to do business.

“Though well-established internationally, we are taking a unique approach.

“Our feeports will have simpler planning to allow businesses to build.

“Freeports will be a truly UK-wide policy and we will work constructively with the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish administrations.”

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