Press Release frm SNP Nairnshire Branch
SNP Nairnshire branch asks party to oppose Cromarty Firth freeport proposal
At a branch meeting held online on Tuesday evening the branch discussed the proposal to create a freeport in Cromarty Firth and the dangers that poses to the area, and especially to Nairn and agreed to ask the party to oppose them at its National Conference in November.
In April 2019 the European Parliament called for freeports to be scrapped across the EU as a result of a report on tax evasion and money laundering but despite this Westminster are now proposing to create freeports around the UK and the Port of Cromarty Firth is looking to be included on that list.
John Hume, who used to work in the shipping industry and so had some experience in this area, explained how freeports work.
“A lot of people don’t understand the full impact freeports might bring but it’s really, fundamentally, a little tax haven. They won’t be paying tax in the way that normal businesses will, they will be exempt from a lot of planning rules so goodness knows what buildings may be developed on and around the freeport, and they won’t necessarily have to apply by other regulations around employment such as the minimum wage and may not have to pay National Insurance. We’re going to have enough problems in the UK and Scotland with a bonfire of regulations post Brexit even without freeports.”
Thinking specifically about the dangers to Nairn, branch member Paul Oldham said:
“If Cromarty Port is made a freeport all of the marine protection will go, so the threat to Nairn’s beaches will be back. The Scottish Ports Group, of which the Port of Cromarty Firth is a member, is already calling for a review of the implementation of the Birds and Habitats Directives because the Group feel it is critical to the functioning of an effective port.
“What this means is scrapping long standing environmental protection legislation which would be catastrophic for the Moray Firth. Our fish, dolphins, whales, birds and other marine life will all be seriously affected; the long term damage of increased marine traffic, its pollution to our beaches and environment, and to other Highland and Moray Firth businesses and tourism will be immeasurable. All the hard work which went into preventing Ship to Ship Transfers in the Moray Firth could, in one fell swoop, be undone.”
A branch member who had watched a recent meeting of the Highland Council Recovery Board said that board members were told that local councillors, MPs, and MSPs supported the proposal for the Port of Cromarty Firth to become a UK Freeport i.e. all taxes and customs policies along with other important issues, will be under the control of Westminster and it looked like the Council’s support would be “rubber stamped“ before there was any debate about its merits, or otherwise, in the council chamber or in the wider community.
Branch convener, Luan McCormack said:
“Our branch is very concerned about the proposal for a freeport just across the Moray from Nairn and that our local councillors seem oblivious to the dangers it poses. We hope that the Scottish National Party will agree at its conference to oppose freeports throughout Scotland and especially at Cromarty Firth.”