A row has broken out over claims by a Scottish Tory MP that Aberdeen council supports plans for a “free port” in the city.

Ross Thomson said the city council was "keen" about the post-Brexit initiative, but the local authority chief executive denied that any senior officer had met the MP.

SNP MSP Kevin Stewart said: “Aberdeen City Council officials have confirmed that there’s been absolutely no discussion about his half cooked plans. It’s time for Ross Thomson to be honest about who he has or has not contacted about this proposal.”

However, council co-leader Douglas Lumsden confirmed he had met Thomson to discuss the idea: 

“I and other senior administration figures have met Ross on several occasions to discuss how we can best work together for the city — including a bid for Aberdeen to become a free port.

“The roll-out of free ports across the United Kingdom is exciting news. It is certainly something we are considering and Ross is right to explore interest at this stage."

A free port is an area within a country that is treated as an independent jurisdiction for customs purposes.

Brexiteers argue that goods can be imported and exported within a free port without running into trade barriers such as tariffs and customs duties.

UK Government sources have argued that prime minister Boris Johnson is considering Aberdeen or Peterhead as a free port.

After the SNP called for an explanation of the plan, Aberdeen South MP Thomson tweeted:

“This is a typical grievance fuelled negative response from the SNP. I have spoken with the harbour who are interested and the city council who are keen.”

Thomson’s claims led to Stewart who, as well as being a city MSP is a Scottish Government Minister, writing to council chief executive Angela Scott.

He wrote: “As you may be aware, Aberdeen South MP, Ross Thomson, has said on the record that Aberdeen City Council are “keen” on the idea of a Free Port.

“I find this concerning as such little detail has been published around the details of how an Aberdeen Free Port would be created given that the Harbour Board is an independent body.”

He added: “While I fail to see why Aberdeen City Council’s support would be relevant to Mr Thomson’s proposal, I find it concerning that he has reported the council’s enthusiasm given the lack of detail around how the port would operate.

“I would therefore be grateful if you could provide information as to whether the council did indeed express support for a Free Port to Mr Thomson and, if so, whether this decision was taken in partnership with Aberdeen Harbour Board.”

In response, Scott wrote: “As far as I am aware, no senior officer has met Ross Thompson regarding this matter and therefore no officer opinion/advice /support on the proposal, has been provided.”

Stewart told this newspaper: “In the event of No-Deal a Free Port would only be a sticking plaster on the economic damage inflicted upon our city.

“Ross Thomson has a duty to recognise this and respect the wishes of the majority of Aberdonians to oppose a No Deal.”

Lumsden criticised Stewart: "Kevin Stewart is doing anything to talk down the city, while Ross Thomson is engaging with stakeholders and lobbying government on our behalf. 

"This is a clear example of having someone on the city’s side, not just a mouthpiece for their political party like Mr Stewart.”

Thomson said: "Aberdeen is perfectly placed to be a free port and to benefit from the huge opportunities it could bring our city. 

"I’ll always continue to stand up for Aberdeen, where SNP politicians representing the Granite City have forced business rate hikes, council tax hikes and income tax hikes on it. 

"Kevin Stewart in particular, as local government minister, is responsible for the biggest cut to Aberdeen’s council budget. 

"Our records stand in stark contrast I put my city first — Kevin puts his party first."