Nicola Sturgeon has been urged to back a bid for a green freeport in the north east of Scotland.
Supporters of a green freeport in region have signed a letter highlighting her “ambition” to make the north-east the “net zero capital of Europe”, which she announced in a visit to Aberdeen in April.
The missive argues that her government “can now play a significant role in making this commitment a reality” by supporting the North East Scotland Green Freeport (NESGF) group bid to win the status, which comes with special tax incentives and lower tariffs around airports, seaports and rail terminals.
The region is in a fierce competition with other ports consortiums in Scotland be named as a green freeport, which also includes a share of £52 million of government funding.
Five areas have made bids to become green freeports under a scheme agreed by the Scottish and UK Governments, but only two will win.
A decisions is expected to be made in coming weeks.
The consortium, consisting of Aberdeen City Council, Aberdeenshire Council, Port of Aberdeen, Peterhead Port Authority and the city’s airport, launched the bid in June.
The group estimates the green freeport could generate 32,000 jobs and provide an economic boost worth £8.5 billion over the next decade.
Letter to Nicola
The letter said: “During a recent visit to Aberdeen you highlighted the Scottish Government’s commitment to reposition the north east of Scotland as the net-zero capital of Europe.”
The letter continued: “This was a hugely welcome statement of intent and your Government can now play a significant role in making this commitment a reality.”
The consortium said the freeport will bring “large-scale, advanced manufacturing” to the city to “maximise economic benefit from Scotland’s rapidly growing offshore wind and hydrogen sectors”.
And the group has told Ms Sturgeon that a key freeport ambition is to “usher in an era of regeneration and reverse the outflow of people from the region since 2015” which has caused significant labour shortages to key industries.
The letter also tells Ms Sturgeon the freeport bid will help some of the most deprived communities in Scotland.
It states: “The positive regeneration impact of a green freeport on these communities will not only ensure access to skills, training and job opportunities within the zone, but guarantees fairness, equality and sustainable employment.”
The letter to the First Minister was signed by leaders of a number of the consortium partners and includes both co-leaders of Aberdeen City Council Alex Nicoll and Ian Yuill, and Mark Findlatter, leader of Aberdeenshire Council.
It follows on from an initiative where over 100 leaders representing more than 20,000 people living and working in the north-east backed a call for a green freeport to be based in Aberdeen and Peterhead.
Other areas vying for a green freeport includes Opportunity Cromarty Firth (OCF), the consortium leading the bid for green freeport status on the west coast.
Orkney Council has also thrown its hat into the ring for an Orkney Green Freeport.
Two further bids in the central belt include the Firth of Forth Green Freeport and the Clyde Green Freeport.
The letter in full:
Dear First Minister
During a recent visit to Aberdeen you highlighted the Scottish Government’s commitment to reposition the north-east of Scotland as the “net zero capital of Europe”.
This was a hugely welcome statement of intent and your Government can now play a significant role in making this commitment a reality.
North East Scotland Green Freeport will bring large-scale, advanced manufacturing to Aberdeen to maximise economic benefit from Scotland’s rapidly growing offshore wind and hydrogen sectors and accelerate pioneering carbon capture projects on the Buchan coast. As bid partners we are united in the belief that the fusion of Green Freeport status with the North East’s world-leading energy expertise will accelerate decarbonisation and a just transition to a Net Zero economy.
The levers afforded by the green freeport policy have already attracted interest in this region from new investors to Scotland, and if we succeed, will secure vital trade and accelerate and increase the scale of innovation and diversification in the region’s key sectors:
- Anchoring delivery in Scotland of a globally recognised integrated energy cluster focussed on the delivery of net zero contributing significantly to continued national energy and economic security.
- Leverage private sector investment to attract new manufacturing and subsea engineering companies which will maximise the significant opportunities for the regional and Scottish supply chain provided by ScotWind and Intog licensing.
- Accelerating the delivery of Acorn, Scotland’s only carbon capture cluster, and establishing Europe’s largest direct air capture facility on the Buchan coast.
- Accelerating the impacts of a new green hydrogen production and distribution hub to produce the renewable gas for regional and national markets, and ultimately export, being a major contributor to the Scottish Government’s hydrogen action plan or the Scotland-Bavaria hydrogen partnership
- Capitalising on the brand new £400million Aberdeen south harbour expansion which provides 24 hour non tidal access and deep-water facilities on the East Coast, and the contribution by the Aberdeen City Region Deal.
- Harness the region’s existing expertise in freight logistics across global supply chains and become a UK test-bed for the development of innovative solutions for future trade systems, including the use of drone technology across ports and customs infrastructure.
- Stimulating investment in innovation and automation to transform our crucial seafood sector, supporting to increase world class food and drink exports to the world.
- Building on the energy expertise of our world-leading universities and colleges and equipping the next generation for a greener future.
A key feature of the North East Scotland Green Freeport ambition is that it will help usher in an era of regeneration and help reverse the outflow of people from the region since 2015 which has left key industries with significant labour shortages.
Furthermore, there is a significant wealth disparity across our region, with communities in Aberdeen and Peterhead among the 20% most income deprived in Scotland.
The NESGF jobs plan is designed to support employers in the zone to develop the capacity of local talent in these communities and under-represented groups.
Our bid reflects the engagement we have had with landowners, potential tax site operators and ultimately operators.
They have supported the aspirations of the NESGF, and the commitment to fair work principles and paying the Scottish living wage.
We have also proposed a “charter” whereby benefitting businesses will formally sign up to these objectives.
The positive regeneration impact of a green freeport on these communities will not only ensure access to skills, training and job opportunities within the zone but guarantee fairness, equality and sustainable employment.
In that very spirit, all the undersigned are proud to pay the Scottish living wage and are signatories to the Scottish business pledge. We will ensure those businesses within the allocated sites do too.
We estimate that the North East of Scotland Green Freeport could generate 32,000 jobs and an economic boost of £8.5 billion in GVA.
Last month, over 100 senior industry leaders, academics and parliamentarians, including those representing your party, signed a public letter supporting the bid and its clear intent to reposition the region as the net zero capital of Europe.
We sincerely hope you will be supportive of this transformational opportunity to attract investment and high value employment to the north-east of Scotland.