THE assertion that a green freeport on the River Clyde might put Scotland at the forefront of global trade and decarbonisation is, to say the least, a bold one. It might or might not be hyperbole – but it does speak to the vaulting ambition that underpins the Glasgow City Region proposal and indeed to the potential of such economic zones.

The multi-billion pound bid is now being finalised, prior to the deadline of June 20. It deserves widespread support.

Bidders for one of the two green freeports north of the border are being encouraged to demonstrate how their bids will not only boost the Scottish economy but also increase investment and trade.

A key component will be to show how they can help nudge Scotland towards its target of becoming a net-zero economy. Strong partnerships will have to be established with ports, local businesses, councils and places of learning that can play a part in not just the net-zero agenda but in the levelling-up one as well. A further requirement is that equality and diversity can also be advanced.

It is a challenging set of requirements but the collective expertise that lies behind the Glasgow City Region bid gives little reason to doubt that they can be met. The bid team consists of Glasgow Airport, Clydeport, Mossend International Railfreight Park, and a partnership of the Glasgow City Region councils, all of which are committed to enhancing the region’s reputation as the powerhouse of Scotland.

Having two green freeports in Scotland would represent a massive opportunity for the country in these uncertain post-Brexit, post-pandemic times.

Concerns have been expressed about the operation of freeports, not least because Scotland’s Trade Minister, Ivan McKee, has conceded that they have a “mixed” reputation abroad amidst fears about criminality and tax evasion. It is to be hoped that such anxieties will be nullified by the time the two Scottish freeports are in operation.

Just as importantly, the fact that Scotland will have two green freeports shows what can happen when the Scottish Government and the UK Government in London bury their mutual hostility and suspicion.

The freeports issue was the setting for some characteristically petty squabbling by Scottish ministers but what the country needs now is that same spirit of collaboration across numerous other projects, including the funding of upgrades to the A75 Gretna-Stranraer road and the A77 Glasgow-Stranraer.

They were identified as routes of UK importance in Sir Peter Hendy’s Union Connectivity Review, not least because the former carries 40% of Northern Ireland’s exports.

So far the Scottish Government is snubbing efforts to work with the UK on upgrading it, saying transport is devolved and it is nothing to do with London. Meanwhile the roads remain woefully inadequate.

Tunnels between Scottish islands are another idea worth taking further. Following Scotland Office minister Iain Stewart’s visit to the Faroe Islands, where he saw inter-island tunnel links, there is an appetite for exploring this in Shetland and Orkney.

The Scottish Government’s own strategic transport document says the idea should be considered but it has dismissed London’s offer to work together.

Also, the UK Government is bringing forward a Bill to allow the use of gene-editing in agriculture. It’s a scientific way of doing what farmers have done for centuries: breeding crop strains that are more disease and drought-resistant, which is important for strengthening our food security and tackling climate change.

Though the Bill relates only to England, London offered to make it Britain-wide because Scotland’s farmers are strongly supportive.

Scots scientists are at the forefront of this technology but so far Edinburgh ministers want Scottish regulations to remain aligned with the EU, which still brackets gene-editing alongside gene modification.

They are, however, different, and the signs are that the EU is heading towards the same change as the UK, but more slowly.

All of these are strong examples that would directly benefit the economy but the Scottish Government’s reluctance to work with their London counterparts is holding Scotland back at the worst possible time.

Whether such recalcitrance stems from a need to demonise London or to placate their Green partners, it needs to stop.


Time now for Johnson to step aside

TRUE to his nature, Boris Johnson has put a gloss on a confidence ballot in which 41% of his own MPs voted against him. Head down, shoulders hunched, he wants to press forward, cheerfully insisting that he will now devote his attention to the things that really matter.

But many in his party openly question his ability to run the country. To the public at large he remains a colourful figure in the grey world of Westminster – entertaining in his own way, and full of bluster – but who behaved in an unappetising way during Partygate.

His credibility has been fatally undermined. He can win elections but, his decisive reaction to the Covid vaccines apart, he has become a lame duck.

It is time that he stepped aside. The Conservative Party is adrift and lacks direction. It needs to relocate its core values if it is intent on staying in power. Labour, despite its well-meaning yet colourless leader, is showing a steady improvement in the polls.

Snubbing the Queen

THE Queen’s Jubilee weekend sparked fantastic parties, wonderful images of the best of Britain, and a fitting tribute to the Queen.

Sadly, in Scotland, at a civic and local authority level, too many preferred pandering to petty partisan politics by snubbing the celebrations. This was not about unionism, conservatism or football loyalties, as many tried to portray. This was a chance to showcase our respect for seven decades of the Queen’s reign.

Many people have little regard for the monarchy in a modern democracy. Their views need to be respected, but it should not have been the default position of our councils to ignore such a momentous occasion.

Thank goodness for those who took up the mantle themselves. Nicola Sturgeon’s thoughtful words of respect and admiration provided a stark contrast to Glasgow City Council’s SNP and Green coalition. Historians will look back at a civic opportunity missed and wonder how we allowed divisive politics to hold such sway.