BUSINESSES involved in the consortium for the unsuccessful Clyde Green Freeport Bid could be set to take the UK and Scottish governments to court, The Herald understands.

Leading lawyers have been consulted and the private sector firms are “reviewing the legal options available.”

It is not clear what action could be taken, but last year, Secretary of State for Scotland Alister Jack told MPs that failure to follow the “metrics” in the judging criteria could pave the way for a judicial review.

There have been questions over the integrity of the decision-making process, in particular around the success of the Forth bid

The proposal - taking in Grangemouth, Leith and Rosyth - was picked by Conservative and SNP ministers despite failing to meet one of the key requirements.

All five groups applying for the billion-pound economic zone status needed to show that they had a “firm written commitment” from their local council.

While all the other bids managed to secure that backing - including Clyde Green Freeport which took in eight councils - the City of Edinburgh Council was less decisive in their support for Forth.

Although they initially seemed to back the bid, the authority formally withdrew their support in November, with the Labour leader of the authority accused of “bypassing democracy and dodging scrutiny” for not first asking for the permission of councillors.

Officials were forced to tell both governments that their letter of support had been “premature”.

It was only at a subsequent full council meeting on December 15 that councillors finally, formally backed the bid.

However, the deadline for the contest closed at 10am on 20 June.

Last month, Rishi Sunak, John Swinney and Mr Jack travelled to the Black Isle to announce that proposals from Forth and Inverness and Cromarty Firth had triumphed over rival bids from the North East, Orkney, and the Clyde.

READ MORE: Forth won freeport bid despite being 'ineligible'

Over the weekend, a source close to the Clyde bid confirmed to The Herald: “The private sector partners are reviewing the legal options available.”

Glasgow Labour MSP Pauline McNeill said she would back any action.

“It’s unacceptable that the West of Scotland, where deprivation is highest, did not secure one of the bids. It speaks volumes that the government seem okay with the bids in the East whilst leaving Glasgow behind. I’m quite angry about this.

“The bid met the terms in full and it appeared the Edinburgh bid was short of the requirements yet won the bid.

"There is no recognition of the strategic importance of Glasgow and Clyde and in fact, it’s economically stupid to leave Glasgow behind. I don’t buy that it’s because they have City Deal funding, etc. It’s not good enough.

“We don’t know what Freeport access would actually mean but it doesn’t look right. Two bids on the East and none on the West.”

READ MORE: Aitken blasts Scottish and UK governments over Clyde freeport snub

Last October, speaking in the Commons, Scottish Secretary Alister Jack made clear that the final decision would be based solely on the criteria set out in the bidding prospectus prepared by both governments.

“I have not shown any preference for any bid, and it is right that we do not and do it properly according to the metrics that we set out, because we cannot leave this open to judicial review, which would lead to further delay,” he told MPs.

In Holyrood, last month, Nicola Sturgeon defended the process. She said the bids “were assessed in line with the published criteria, and there was a joint decision-making process between the Scottish Government and the UK Government, with the successful bidders being announced two weeks ago.”

“I understand the disappointment on the part of the bids that were not successful. It does not mean that those bids were not of a high quality, but successful bids had to be selected,” she added.

There are fears from Glasgow politicians and the business community that companies based in and around the city could now head east to take advantage of the low tax status.

Estimates suggest manufacturing firms based in freeports can see their overheads reduced by around 40 per cent.

Speaking to The Herald at the end of January, Peel Ports-Clydeport Director Jim McSporran, said he and colleagues were worried about the consequences of both Green Freeports going east.

READ MORE: Freeport frustration runs deep with all quiet on the western front

“What is very clear from the way the awards process has worked out, with the east coast coming out such a clear winner, is that we on the west have a mountain to climb, and we’re going to need support from the public sector.

“To give just one example of the challenges in our area, we have a major distribution centre closing in Inverclyde, which could lead to the loss of hundreds of jobs in the local supply chain. And now we’ve had a further hammer blow with the Greenport situation.

“How are we supposed to attract manufacturing to the region and build our relationships with local supply chains when the east coast Green Freeports can offer them advantages in terms of tax, planning and other benefits?”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Scotland’s green ports were selected by Scottish and UK Government ministers in line with criteria outlined in the Green Freeports Bidding Prospectus.

“Both governments are now working with the unsuccessful bidders to consider how they can build on the plans set out in their bids to deliver jobs and growth in their regions outside the green ports programme.

“The Scottish Government is investing significantly in the Clyde, and will continue to do so. This includes our commitment of £500 million to the Glasgow City Region City Deal Infrastructure Investment Fund, matching the investment made by the UK Government.

"The Deal empowers Glasgow and its City Region partners to identify, manage and deliver a programme of investment to stimulate economic growth and create jobs in their area.”

A UK Government spokesperson said: “Green Freeports are a key part of our levelling up agenda and will help to unleash the potential of the Firth of Forth and Inverness and Cromarty Firth.

“Backed by up to £52 million in UK Government funding, the new sites are expected to bring forward an estimated £10.8 billion of private and public investment and create over 75,000 new, high-skilled jobs.

Forth Green Freeport has previously insisted that their bid was submitted on 20 June “containing letters of support from all relevant local authorities and was fully compliant.”