Never more than now has the world needed the expertise, the vision and the sheer graft of the north and north-east people.
That’s why The Press and Journal is demanding the UK and Scottish Governments support the proposals put forward by Opportunity Cromarty Firth and North East Scotland Green Freeport.
We expect the decision to be made as early as this week. Of five bids in Scotland only two will be chosen.
Both bids that we are endorsing offer the potential to transform the regional economy by pump-priming billions of investment that creates tens of thousands of jobs.
In the Highlands, Opportunity Cromarty Firth has estimated a green freeport taking in areas around the firth as well as Port of Inverness and the airport will create 25,000 direct and indirect jobs and contribute around £6 billion to the economy.
It will put wind in the sails of a number of projects, including the UK’s largest green hydrogen production facility, and will ensure the area reaches its potential as the most suitable location to manufacture and fabricate the technology for floating offshore wind farms.
On the east coast, the North East Scotland Green Freeport consortium estimates a green freeport stretching from Peterhead to Aberdeen would create 32,000 jobs and provide an economic boost worth £8.5 billion over the next decade.
A north-east green freeport would also galvanise key projects such as the Acorn carbon capture and storage project in Peterhead, which is the heart of an ambitious plan to enable some of the UK’s largest polluters to clean up their act and store carbon under the North Sea.
In the west a green freeport would build on Invergordon’s and Nigg’s strengths to make it an offshore super wind hub while also reversing population decline. In the east, it would galvanise the expertise engendered by the oil and gas industry to ensure a just transition and create the net zero capital of Europe.
Both of these together would make the north of Scotland a true powerhouse in the delivery of low carbon energy that could be the envy of the world.
Insiders are predicting the green freeport bid in the Forth, taking in Leith Docks and the industrial complex at Grangemouth, is a shoe-in for one of Scotland’s two green freeports.
We need three green freeports
If this is the case, then the governments must change their plans and give Scotland three green freeports, with the Highlands and the north-east bids also selected.
Scotland is now embarking on a mission to produce vast amounts of energy from one of our most abundant resources, wind, as part of the Scotwind project. And in order for the north of Scotland to make the most of this, our ports capacity must be ramped up now. Green freeports in the Highlands and the north-east can ensure we achieve this.
Not to mention, delivering energy production capacity is another urgent need as the world faces a desperate shortage of supply and households across the north of Scotland face the biggest cost of living crisis in many decades.
It is estimated that government need only invest £200 million for a third green freeport which in turn will unleash economic growth in the billions in both the Highlands and across Peterhead and Aberdeen on the north-east.
New PM must act now
As the UK choses a new Prime Minister, it is now incumbent on them to demonstrate the importance of the north of Scotland to their ambitions, and the regard they hold for the value of its people and their abilities.
The new Prime Minister needs to overcome concerns that the north is easily sidelined, as was the case most recently when the Treasury declined a cross-party offer to discuss proposals which include Acorn Project in Peterhead.
These areas have been badly let down in the past and today we are urging the government not to betray us again.
What did government say?
The Scottish Government told us: “The Scottish Government is focused on delivering the agreement with the UK Government on greenports in Scotland, to promote regeneration in the areas selected, create high quality, well paid jobs, and make a significant contribution to achieving Scotland’s net zero ambitions.”
The UK government said: “Green Freeports are a key part of our levelling up agenda and will bring new jobs, opportunities and investment to Scotland.
“We have always been clear the number of freeports must be limited to control costs.”
We need green freeports where they make geographic sense.
Scotland has a third of the coastline and 63% of the sea area. Yet England has eight freeports – and Scotland only two.