Falkirk councillor James Bundy ‘deeply concerned’ women will get preferential treatment for freeport opportunities | UK News

A Falkirk councillor is “deeply concerned” that women will be given preferential treatment in regards to training opportunities linked to the new Forth Green Freeport.

Conservative councillor James Bundy said it was “not equality” and “men who have worked hard and earned their qualifications should not be discriminated against”.

The Forth freeport will be based around renewables manufacturing, alternative fuels, carbon capture and shipbuilding, as well as a new creative hub.

It will benefit from tax reliefs and other incentives using powers at both the Holyrood and Westminster levels in an effort to stimulate economic growth.

The Forth project includes the ports at Grangemouth, Rosyth and Leith, as well as Edinburgh Airport and a site at Burntisland.

It is expected to attract up to £6bn of investment and create 50,000 jobs – including 20,000 from operations in Grangemouth.

Read more: Scotland to gain two new freeports in Firth of Forth and Cromarty Firth following successful bids

A report to Falkirk Council’s executive last week stated that without direct action there would be disproportionately more jobs for male employees (77%) and fewer jobs for youth (8%) and people with disabilities (12%).

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Efforts to address the imbalance include disability-inclusive hiring practices as well as commitments to schools’ outreach, apprenticeships, scholarships and bursaries.

To help potential applicants make the most of the opportunities, there will be a dedicated skills fund for local people to gain the abilities to access them.

It was confirmed in the council report that access to the funding for skills bursaries would be prioritised for women through preferential scoring in applications.

‘This is not equality’

Mr Bundy welcomed the opportunities provided by the freeport but aired his concerns.

Reading out a statement, he told the meeting: “The creation of opportunities for skills and developments and local employment should be open to everyone.

“Therefore, I am deeply concerned that in section eight of the report, the equalities section, it says, and I quote, ‘access to funding for skills bursaries will be prioritised for women through preferential scoring in applications’.

“This is not equality. It’s another speech, but true equality is to make changes in our education system that gives everyone, man or woman, an equal opportunity to participate in STEM subjects. It is not to give women preference in access to funding for skills bursaries.

“Men who have worked hard and earned their qualifications should not be discriminated against. The best person for the job, for the training, should be offered the job or the training.”

Mr Bundy agreed that the Forth port was an “exciting opportunity for Grangemouth, the wider Falkirk area, Scotland and the United Kingdom”.

He added: “It shows the opportunities that can open when the UK and Scottish governments work together for the common good.

“Let’s take advantage of this opportunity to create high-skilled, high-paid local jobs by ensuring that these opportunities are open to all and that economic gains strengthen our communities.”

Forth Green Freeport was contacted for comment.

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