Green ports – Scotland’s focus on Fair Work First and net zero
Trade Minister Ivan McKee:
The COVID-19 pandemic has radically changed what we once knew as normal and has made us all think about how we want to live our lives in future. As we rebuild our economy, we have an opportunity to build a fairer, greener, more prosperous and inclusive Scotland that delivers for every one and every place.
We have already taken significant steps to put fair work principles at the heart of our economic policy and a priority for employers.
Hundreds of businesses have signed up to the Scottish Business Pledge, which seeks to boost productivity and competitiveness through fairness, equality and sustainability.
Last month we published guidance on the application of Fair Work First criteria, setting out the fair work principles to feature as part of the requirements organisations and businesses will be expected to meet to qualify for public grants and contracts. We also launched a new tool which enables organisations to self-assess their working practices against the dimensions of Fair Work.
This government’s commitment to fair work is a real example of our belief that how we trade is just as important as what we trade. That is why I recently published Scotland’s Vision for Trade, a blueprint for how we will do business around the globe setting out the kind of country we want to be.
As we look to the future, it is important that we build on this work and support employers and businesses to uphold high standards, actively support our vision for Scotland to become a leading Fair Work Nation by 2025 and make a just transition to a net-zero carbon society by 2045.
An important part of our efforts to develop Scotland’s future economy is to promote an inclusive and sustainable recovery across the whole of Scotland.
We are already taking a range of actions to grow regional and local economies, including providing incentives and assistance to encourage cluster-building through the Enterprise Area network and our City Region and Growth Deal programme.
As a way of delivering on all of these broader policy commitments, last month I announced that the Scottish Government is developing plans to establish fair, sustainable, green ports in Scotland.
These plans take the UK’s freeport model and apply Scotland’s values and priorities to it. However, I have been clear from the outset, we will not allow any designation to be created in Scotland that enables or allows potential tax evasion or does not live up to our high standards and values.
I have listened to what businesses and communities have said and there is an appetite for new ways to support our economy to recover from the impacts of the pandemic.
Our green port model is designed to be an exemplar of Scotland’s ambitions and seeks to anchor our newly designated economic development and trading zones. It aims to build on our reputation as a fair, dynamic, outward facing nation and to help grow our exports while establishing our position as a leading destination for inward investment, based on our strengths in high technology, high productivity and high wage sectors.
We already offer incentives to businesses operating in Scotland’s 16 Enterprise Areas to encourage key sectors to build clusters – to maximise the impact of sharing technology and to encourage the growth of local supply chains and skills development. Green ports would enjoy a similar range of benefits from the Scottish Government, as well as any of the incentives offered by the UK Government. And because being designated a green port or operating within such a zone will come with benefits and incentives, it is therefore only right that it comes with responsibilities too.
We have been working across government to consider the detail of what this would mean in practice for green port operators and the organisations that would operate within them.
Through our Fair Work First approach, we would expect the operators and beneficiaries of the new incentives offered in green ports to make a commitment to adopting our Fair Work First criteria.
In my statement in Parliament I made it clear that green port operators, and businesses receiving benefits within green ports would be required to pay the real living wage as a minimum. But that is not all that we will expect them to deliver in terms of fair work and inclusive growth.
Green port operators and businesses will be required to commit to no inappropriate use of zero hours contracts; they will be expected to ensure an effective voice for employees such as through trade union recognition and invest in workforce development; we will want them to show how they will tackle the gender pay gap and create a more diverse and inclusive workplace in their business; and we will expect them to become part of our leading Business Pledge network. This ground breaking Fair Work First approach has real transformative potential – for businesses, employees and communities.
As well as demonstrating how they will foster innovation and drive inclusive, sustainable growth within their communities and local supply chains, green ports will also be expected to deliver on a clear, credible plan of action for contributing to Scotland’s just transition to net zero.
I believe that together, these elements give us an opportunity to make a real difference to Scotland and a real contribution to our economy, our workers and businesses, and to our communities.
This article was first published in The National on 23 February 2021
Tags: Green ports