IT IS the policy in which is distilled Boris Johnson’s vision of a buccaneering, free-wheeling, post-Brexit capitalism, according to his critics.

The Prime Minister wants to create a network of UK free ports – tax and tariff havens in all but name – despite European Union red flag warnings such schemes are a risk for crime and money-laundering.

Now Mr Johnson has recruited an unlikely potential ally to the policy: the SNP. The Scottish Government has, tentatively, said it is ready to discuss free ports north of the Border, or will be ready once the dust settles on Brexit.

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A spokesman said: “We are clear that the best way to maintain tariff-free access to our most important market is to stay in the European Union.

“The Scottish Government is happy to discuss any potential plans for Free Ports. However, this cannot be properly considered until the details of Brexit are known and the UK Government clearly indicates the criteria that would be permitted for any possible free port model.”

North-east Tory MPs are mooting rival free port bids for Peterhead and Aberdeen.

An SNP MP, Douglas Chapman, is exploring the possibility of one at Rosyth in his constituency. Leith, Grangemouth and Dundee have also been named as prospective towns for what is expected to be one such regime north of the Border.

The European Commission last month listed free ports among other policies – including golden visa schemes – that were “potentially vulnerable to money laundering or terrorism financing”.

European Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova said free ports were “the new emerging threat”, adding: “This is something we want to focus more on.”

Mr Johnson’s free port policy has come to symbolise widespread fears within EU states that the UK could become a greater centre of offshore finance and money-laundering after Brexit.

Mr Johnson believes free ports in the UK would create thousands of jobs.

There are scores of free ports around Europe and the rest of the world, but they remain highly controversial. Concerns vary, depending on the laxity of their tax and regulatory regimes.

The Herald asked the Scottish Government if it had law and order or money-laundering concerns about free ports in Scotland.

The spokesman responded: “The detection and investigation of any alleged criminal activity, including money-laundering and human-trafficking in Scotland, is a matter for Police Scotland.

“We are carefully considering the implications of leaving the EU with stakeholders, including Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority.”

Free ports vary from place to place. Usually, they involve factories that can make things from goods on which full taxes or tariffs have not been paid. Advocates say they can help transfer activity, especially to areas where the economy is struggling, such as in northern England.

Professor John Tomaney, of University College London, told The New Statesman: “Freeports have become an article of faith for some advocates of ‘Global

Britain’, but the evidence that they would contribute to economic development in northern England is very far from convincing.

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“Experience from elsewhere in the world is that they provide many advantages to firms and their shareholders but far fewer to local workers and taxpayers.

“In many parts of the world they have been used as cover to drive down labour standards and reduce environmental protections.”

A Tory minister claimed Peterhead would make an “ideal’ free port. Colin Clark, the Scottish Office minister, said the struggling fishing town was in a “very strong position” to get special tax-haven status.

According to The Press and Journal, he said: “It is ideal for the fishing industry, the processing side, as well as oil and gas, which is now going in the direction of renewables.

“We are at the very early stages with regards to the free port idea for Peterhead. It is for the port itself to apply and present their best business case but

I think Peterhead has a very strong position.”

Another Tory, Ross Thomson, told the P&J he would campaign for Aberdeen to get the special status.

Mr Chapman added: “Free ports do come with challenges but [this is] not a reason to ignore the potential to boost areas where there is availability of land and access to port facilities.”