South Scotland SNP MSP Emma Harper has called for clarity from Dumfries and Galloway Council on a letter, issued to MSPs and MPs, regarding the Council’s plans for the Port of Cairnryan, following the UK’s departure from the European Union.

In the letter, Dumfries and Galloway Council state that they have responded to the UK Government’s Consultation on Freeports to highlight the “positive benefits” Freeports could have on areas like South West Scotland, through job creation and infrastructure improvements. In the response, the Council also state that they “await with great anticipation the final report from Sir Peter Hendy on the Union Connectivity Report”, which is due to be published in September, and its potential recommendations for South West Scotland. The letter also acknowledges that the Council have, too, expressed an interest in the Scottish Government’s Greenport consultation.

Since the UK Government announced their Freeport plans, Ms Harper has raised her concerns over how these could work. She has supported the Scottish Government’s view that Freeports allow for a race to the bottom for workers’ rights, a backdoor for financial and tax crime, as well as an easier route for human and puppy trafficking. Instead of Freeports, the Scottish Government have proposed an adapted plan for the creation of Greenports.Greenports allow for trade in the best interest of the climate emergency and promote fair work practices, which include paying people a living wage.

Ms Harper has also expressed her frustration over the UK Government’s Union Connectivity Review which has consulted with zero residents of Dumfries and Galloway. The South Scotland MSP has also said that this review is an attack on devolution as transport is devolved to the Scottish Parliament. The Scottish Government’s Strategic Transport Projects Review, which will make transport and infrastructure upgrades announcements for Dumfries & Galloway, is to be published later this month.

Commenting, Ms Harper said:

“I am asking Dumfries and Galloway Council to clarify their position relating to the Port of Cairnryan as a potential Freeport or Greenport. In their letter, the Council have indicated their support for both. However, this is not in line with the Scottish Government’s position, which is in favour of sustainable Greenports. I am also concerned that the Council have cited the upcoming publication of the UK Government’s Union Connectivity Review, but not the Scottish Government’s Strategic Transport Projects Review which has consulted with more than 2,000 people across our region. Transport is devolved to the Scottish Parliament, and the UK Government should respect devolution.

“We know from international examples that Freeports have negative effects and can allow for a race to the bottom on workers’ rights and can provide a backdoor for financial and tax crime, as well as for human and puppy trafficking. In contrast, the Scottish Government have produced plans for sustainable Greenports which promote trade which aims to tackle the climate emergency and which promote fair work principles – offering streamlined planning processes and a package of tax and customs reliefs.

“It is clear that Greenports, or indeed Freeports, cannot and will not undo the damage being caused to Scotland’s economy by the UK Government’s decision to take us out of the EU, the world’s biggest single market. I will continue to do all I can to stand up for D&G, and Scotland’s, economic interests and look forward to receiving a response from the Council soon.”