Heavyweight backers of the Opportunity Cromarty Firth (OCF) consortium’s green freeport bid insist the status would be a “vital catalyst” for long-term local and national benefits.
Should the Highland bid – which is up against four other Scottish competitors – succeed, the Opportunity Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport company would spearhead the opportunities which could see 25,000 new jobs created.
In an open letter to decision-makers in Westminster and Holyrood, former SSE Renewables managing director Jim Smith, who has agreed to chair the Opportunity Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport company, highlighted the key role the area is due to play in the growth of the offshore wind industry during the coming decades.
Mr Smith said green freeport status would be the “vital catalyst” required to maximise the long-term local and national benefits of the sector’s rapid development.
Only two bids will win
The UK and Scottish governments are expected to jointly announce their decision on the locations of just two green freeport bids imminently.
Five bids have been received to create green freeports in Scotland.
The four thers are: North East Scotland Green Freeport, Orkney Green Freeport, Forth Green Freeport and Clyde Green Freeport.
The Press and Journal has demanded the UK and Scottish Governments support the proposals put forward on behalf of the Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport and North East Scotland Green Freeport.
Each region is in a fierce competition with each other to land a share of £52 million of government funding alongside a package of tax and customs allowances as well as investment incentives for areas around airports, seaports and rail terminals.
In its bid, submitted in June, the OCF consortium said winning the status for Inverness and the Cromarty Firth would be key to attracting at least £2.5 billion of new private sector investment, creating 25,000 jobs and ensuring local content targets for offshore windfarm developments are met, rather than the work going abroad.
Mr Smith said: “Already a well-established key energy industry hub, the Cromarty Firth will be the focal point for development of the new offshore wind sector for many decades to come.
“Green freeport status for this area offers the vital catalyst required to maximise the lasting benefits the energy sector can bring to the Highlands, Scotland and the whole of the UK.
“The Inverness and Cromarty Firth bid has the backing of the renewables industry. A group of the world’s leading developers has publicly stated green freeport status in the Highlands would transform the viability of the projects they need to deliver.
“They are united in the view the Cromarty Firth is the only location in Scotland where manufacturing for floating wind can be carried out at the scale and speed required to meet current targets. They have also said that ultimately this will offer ‘the best path to lower costs and thus lower UK fuel bills.’”
He continued: “The new well-paid, sustainable jobs that will be created in the Highlands will be critical to levelling up the region and reversing the long-term decline in the region’s working age population.”
The letter also highlighted how the establishment of manufacturing facilities for the offshore wind industry in the Highlands can cut the carbon footprint of projects by reducing the need to import components.
It also underlined how the rapid deployment of offshore wind is spurring development of other renewable energy sectors and in particular, green hydrogen.
The OCF consortium, launched in 2020, includes the ports of Cromarty Firth, Nigg and Inverness and also the Highlands’ largest air terminal and Inverness Airport Business Park.
It is backed by Inverness Chamber of Commerce and more than a dozen businesses, as well as public sector organisations and academic bodies, including the Highland Council and the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI).