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The Burning Question – Freeports

‘A week is a long time in politics’ is probably as hackneyed a phrase in politics as ‘football is a game of two halves’ is, in the beautiful game. But it’s none the less true for all that. Humza Yousaf is facing two votes; one on his own job as FM and one on the performance of his government. Until the latter was mooted, it looked like he was going to have to rely on Alba’s Ash Regan for survival. Unless the Greens really want to vote themselves out of a job, they are going to have to support HY on the vote of confidence in the government. But one thing that did interest us was Ash Regan’s wish list for bargaining with the SNP.  It included womens’ rights, the backing of her own bill on Scottish referendum rights and Grangemouth. All fine and good. But there’s one important omission from that and that’s freeports and special enterprise zones (SEZs).

Yes, we heard that groan. Freeports on the face of it, seem a complicated issue. We’ve spent a lot of our time and effort trying to explain this to people, because it’s our job as a political party to do difficulty. So let’s explain it simply. Freeports are the UK’s poisoned gift to Scotland post -independence. Instead of Scotland being run by Westminster, it’s going  to be broken into lots of little statelets, each run by a business consortia, who will pay no tax and treat workers and their rights exactly as they please. They will collapse our local business economy and sell off our resources dirt cheap to other countries and interests and will not pay tax on it to us. Is that clear enough?

Let’s give you an old colonial example (other than our own) that make it clearer. The vanguard of colonial power for Britian was companies like the East India company. They would go ahead into countries, set up trading posts, hire soldiers and then pay the locals pennies to pick cotton, work mines etc. They would extract the natural resources of the country and sell them for a huge profit. They gradually pushed out their influence, backed up by soldiers and ignoring the local powers and laws to do so.

This is the same thing. We are at a loss to understand why we appear to be the only party that gets this right now. There is absolutely no point in gaining Scotland’s independence, to hand over control of Scotland to be run by private business interests, counter to our laws. And these contracts last up to 25 years. We are being asset stripped. And they also prevent us from rejoining Europe. The freeports that exist in Europe are allowed because they are publicly owned and run under EU standards. Our ports aren’t. They could certainly do with being taken into public ownership as major strategic interests. But these contracts will also prevent us from doing that.

Here’s a question for you. How can you call Scotland free, when all its major ports, Edinburgh airport (Edinburgh), its capital city, its oil refinery, its deep docks, its oil and gas facilities and its renewable energy facilities and energy resources are under the control of private consortia, operating to their own set of rules in breach of the laws of Scotland. Is that freedom?

Oh, and Jim Ratcliffe from Ineos has just re-applied for fracking licences. Isn’t that great, eh?

There is one piece of good news which is that Salvo sent letters of notice to all these consortia informing them that the setting up of the freeports wasn’t permitted under the Scottish constitution. That allows them to be challenged legally later on.

There is no excuse for any independence party not to be taking this seriously. For it not to be at the top of their agenda. Freeports are the equivalent colonial gift that partition was to India and Northern Ireland was to the Irish Republic, with the same intended effect. To stop it, we (and by ‘we’ we mean all independence parties) need to challenge it now.

Ash, please add freeports to your wishlist. We promise you, history will judge you and Alba harshly if you don’t.

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