Partners behind an ambitious plan to create 30,000 jobs across the north east have called for governments in Holyrood and Westminster to back its proposal to create a “green freeport” in Aberdeen and Peterhead.
Port of Aberdeen boss Bob Sanguinetti said winning the much vied-for status would allow the region to “help change the world” as it builds on its offshore industry expertise and supply chains to foster the development of a low carbon energy system.
It could also boost the economy by an estimated £7.5 billion as investors and employers are attracted by lower taxes on pay and tax incentives for building manufacturing and research facilities.
If successful the green freeport would take in both harbours in Aberdeen and Peterhead and support a range of potential low carbon energy developments including the Acorn carbon capture and storage (CCS) project, which was overlooked last year in a competition led by the UK Government in favour of two projects in the north of England.
This time, the North East Scotland Green Freeport (NESGF) consortium is confident it can compete and win one of two of the proposed enterprise zones planned for Scotland.
But competition is fierce. On the same day, Glasgow launched its consortium bid to win the status led by Clyde Port owner, Peel Ports and including Glasgow Airport.
Meanwhile, Port of Cromarty Firth and Global Energy Group are spearheading the Opportunity Cromarty Firth bid. These partners, which includes Port of Inverness and Inverness Airport, have estimated a successful bid on the west coast of Scotland will create 20,000 jobs across the Highlands.
Another favourite is the Firth of Forth Green Freeport bid which takes in the ports of Grangemouth, Leith and Rosyth. These partners, led by Forth Ports, have predicted their joint bid for green freeport would create 50,000 jobs.
The NESGF consortium includes both Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire councils, Aberdeen International Airport, as well as the Energy Transition Zone (ETZ), which plans to develop areas across from the Port of Aberdeen’s new south harbour as well as swathes of industrial land in Altens.
Stakeholders also include Storegga, the developers of the Acorn CCS and hydrogen projects in Peterhead, as well as both Aberdeen and Robert Gordon Universities.
As well as fuelling the shift to low carbon energy, including hydrogen production, the group is also aiming to land advanced manufacturing projects.
But they also want to use the status to increase possibilities for increasing exports of goods, such as food and drink produced in the region, by establishing a regional customs hub.
Yesterday consortium members launching the region’s bid were confident it would succeed in winning the recognition.
“How confident am I? We have an extremely compelling case to make,” said Aberdeen’s port boss Mr Sanguinetti.
“The fusion of green freeport status with a region internationally renowned for its resilience, adaptability and pioneering entrepreneurial spirit would deliver a prosperous new chapter in our industrial story. One which, quite literally, could help change the world.”
Sir Ian Wood, the chairman of two organisations in the consortium – Opportunity North East and ETZ – said a green freeport would “cement the bridge” between the region’s existing oil and gas industry and a cleaner UK energy system while also protecting employment.
He said: “It will ensure the north east of Scotland can maintain and build on its high value employment and innovative jobs and successfully achieve the transformation from the oil and gas capital of Europe to the net zero capital of Europe.”
Up to nine groups in Scotland have flagged an interest in winning one of the two Scottish green freeports.
Bids from prospective operators need to be in by 10am on Monday 20 June and a decision is expected by late summer.
Scotland is already behind in taking advantage of the freeport model after wrangling between Holyrood and Westminster over what the £52 million project would entail.
England is roaring ahead with eight freeports that were given the green light at the March 2021 Budget.
Simon Brebner, the chief executive of Peterhead Port Authority said a successful bid would be “transformative” for the Blue Toon as well as the projects on its doorstep that have so far been disappointed by various governments that have failed to back CCS and other projects.
He said: “For Scotland and the UK to reach its climate goals, it needs the energy sector in the north east of Scotland to be at the vanguard of the transition.
“The levers and incentives offered through the green freeport will provide certainty to investors that in turn will allow us to transition to innovative renewables solutions.”
Steve Murphy, the chief operating officer of Storegga, the key driver of the Acorn project and the heart of the Scottish “cluster” which is seeking the next round of UK Govermment support said winning the green freeport status would “accelerate and amplify” its efforts.
He added: “The North East Scotland Green Freeport bid is an important element of the collective Scottish and UK push to reach net zero.
“It is vital we push hard to get important carbon reduction developments like Acorn online as swiftly as possible.”