THE five sites competing to become Scotland’s first green freeports have been confirmed.

After a joint evaluation of the bids by the UK and Scottish governments, two of the five are expected to have their freeport status confirmed later this year and start operating next spring.

Designed to boost economic growth by offering tax breaks and other incentives to businesses within them, freeport zones can be 45km across.

The five confirmed bidders include Clyde Green Freeport, promoted by Peel Ports, which takes in Glasgow airport and the Mossend Railhead in North Lanarkshire.

While on the east coast, the Firth of Forth Green Freeport plan straddles three councils, taking in Grangemouth in Falkirk, Leith in Edinburgh, and Rosyth in Fife. 

The other three are the Aberdeen City and Peterhead Green Freeport, the Opportunity Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport and the Orkney Green Freeport.

After initially touting a bid, the Cairnryan Green Freeport plan was withdrawn.

The Scottish scheme is being backed by £52million from the Treasury.

The SNP initially refused to work with London on freeports, which they said had been “tarnished” by association with smuggling, tax dodging, and bad pay and work conditions. 

After the UK pushed ahead with eight freeports in England one in Wales, the Scottish Government relented in return for the sites being“green freeports” north of the border.

Extra safeguards in Scotland include all operators required to adopt fair work practices, including union recognition, the real living wage and no zero hour contracts.

The sites must also contribute to Scotland’s pursuit of net zero carbon emissions.

However the SNP’s partners in government, the Scottish Greens, remain fiercely opposed to the ports, saying they will “hand tax breaks and public money to rich corporations”.

The SNP’s Trade Union group also warned the decision to work with the UK Government risked “undermining devolution” and opening a lawless backdoor into the Scottish economy.

Green MSP  Ross Greer said: “Branding freeports as green doesn’t change the fact that they are used as a mechanism to funnel public money to private corporations, drive down environmental standards and workers’ pay and conditions.

“There is absolutely no evidence that these projects will create real economic prosperity at all, as demonstrated by George Osborne giving up on them back in 2012.”

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said: “We are well on our way to establishing two Scottish Green Freeports with five bids received.

 "We will now carefully assess the bids to decide which two ports will become Scotland’s Green Freeports.

"UK Freeports are a key part of the UK Government’s Levelling Up strategy – they will bring innovation, high-quality jobs, prosperity and regeneration for the benefit of the whole of Scotland."

SNP Economy Secretary Kate Forbes said: "I’m pleased to see a range of bids come in from across the country to become a Green Freeport.

"We expect Green Freeports to promote regeneration in the areas selected, create high quality jobs and enhance our decarbonisation plans in the just transition to a net zero economy.

“We will now jointly assess and decide on the winning bids, following the rigorous process set out in the agreed joint prospectus in which each government has an equal say. Further details of the successful applicants will be set out in the coming months.”

The two green freeports will benefit from a “comprehensive package of support”, including: initial revenue support, substantial seed capital for land assembly and infrastructure, reserved tax reliefs in respect of capital, land and structures, employer National Insurance reliefs, “customs easements”, and devolved tax reliefs on business rates and Land and Buildings Transaction Tax, and a local business rates retention scheme.

Neil O’Brien, the UK Minister for Levelling Up, the Union and Constitution, added: “I’m delighted that our proposal to establish two Green Freeports has received five strong bids from ports right across Scotland.

“Now, in partnership with the Scottish Government, we will review the applications and decide which two proposals will become Green Freeports – hubs that will support a net zero economy in Scotland and bring hundreds of jobs to the successful areas, backed by £52 million in UK Government funding.

“I look forward to announcing the successful Green Freeports later this year and seeing them deliver for the people of Scotland.”

Ms Forbes has insisted green freeports are “very distinctive” from the kind previously rejected by the government, with bidders having to commit to Net Zero by 2025 and embedding fair work practices.