UK Government looks set to overrule Welsh and Scottish governments on low tax ports

02 Oct 2021 3 minutes Read
Picture by David Dixon (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The UK Government has signalled their intention to overrule Wales and Scotland’s devolved governments and set up tax-free ports despite objections.

A source told the Financial Times that the UK Government was increasingly willing to bypass the devolved administrations.

Welsh Secretary Simon Hart has previously threatened to impose a freeport on Wales “come what may”.

The Welsh government had said in the past that it would be happy to set up a free port, providing it received the same level of funding as England, but the UK Government has not provided such a guarantee.

Welsh Finance Minister Rebecca Evans said in July that they had “consistently attempted to engage constructively with the UK Government” but that the UK Government was pressuring them “to redirect its resources to deliver a UK Government policy priority”.

The Scottish Government has set out to create its own ‘green ports’ but the UK Government has now signalled it will go ahead and create a free port in Scotland despite their objections.

The SNP have previousy expressed concern that the low-tax zones could be “a haven for criminality, such as money laundering and people trafficking” and destroy jobs elsewhere.

Both governments jointly stated in July that any attempt to impose free ports on Wales and Scotland would “undermine devolution”.

Eight freeports were created in England in the March Budget.


Last month the British Ports Association has told the UK Government not to “enforce” freeports in Wales and Scotland, instead saying that they should be “implemented properly and fairly”.

“There has also been speculation of threats by the UK government to enforce the UK freeport model on the devolved administrations,” they said.

“However, this is not welcomed by industry as in this case, the Freeport package would not include devolved levers such as planning, enterprise and certain tax mechanisms.

“For freeports to be implemented properly and fairly, ports must have access to the same mechanisms or be resigned to being less competitive with ports in England, hindering the model ineffective in devolved regions.”

First Minister Mark Drakeford said in March that they “will not be keen to sign up to a freeport proposal that leads, for example, to a reduction in environmental standards. The UK government has agreed conditionality with the Scottish government in that way”.

“We would look for joint decision making given that devolved and non-devolved responsibilities are at stake in freeports, and again the UK government has agreed joint decision making with the Scottish government.

“Then we’d look for the same level of funding for a freeport in Wales as is being made available to all freeports in England – that’s £25m available to a freeport in England, we’d expect to see the same level of funding for a freeport in Wales.

“If there is progress on those three things that conversation can certainly continue.”

Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
1 month ago

Independence! ASAP.

Grayham Jones
1 month ago

We in wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 have got to stop being little Englanders and be proud to be welsh kick all English party’s out of wales that’s the Tories Labour and all Brexit party’s it’s time for a new wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 start fighting for your children and grandchildren future in a new wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
1 month ago

If this were the European Union the rabid-right would be crying foul from the rooftops. This, if it happens, is an affront to devolution and is an attack on both Wales & Scotland’s right to rule themselves without interference from Whitehall. This undemocratic Conservative fascism must be stopped or challenged in the Supreme Court. Because where will it stop? My fear is. When eventually there’s a trade deal with America would result in the Tories overruling our Senedd Cymru, as they are threatening to do now, and would result in the selling of access to our Welsh NHS to private… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Y Cymro
1 month ago

Freeports are of course very different in nature, working and outcomes across the world. Some certainly add a lot to specific value to core areas / towns / ports etc. They also however tend to draw from neighbouring areas and in some cases act as a magnet for other less welcome activities… as mentioned above. Research shows that very successful ones result from genuine partnerships at governmental and local community levels. Having one might well play well at a UK political level but post anouncement these cannot work without being integrated into local spacial plans and having the local authority,… Read more »

1 month ago

If freeports are so good, why did the Tory Gov scrap them in 2012.

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
1 month ago

Freeports may sound great but they are not – many are now corrupt and it is one of the reasons the EU is looking to ban them and probably why the more sane Tory Gov of 2012 (if that is possible) did too. The current lot care little for environmental, social or employee concerns – just keeping the profits rolling in for their chums. If one way to do that is by paying Welsh ports less and over riding the Senedd – then they will. This is the worst UK gov I have witnessed in years – the quicker we… Read more »

Our Supporters

All information provided to Nation.Cymru will be handled sensitively and within the boundaries of the Data Protection Act 2018.