The Secretary of State for Scotland said “ripples of economic growth” will be felt throughout Scotland following the creation of its first green freeports, despite the north-east having been snubbed.
In an op-ed for The Press and Journal, Mr Jack said he understood the “frustration” felt by those in the region, after freeport bids focused around the Cromarty Firth and Firth of Forth were selected to become the nation’s first such sites.
However, he said the impact of the decision would “turbo-charge the economy” and create “massive opportunities for renewable industries.”
“As is inevitable in any competitive process, there was disappointment from those who were unsuccessful in the north-east, Glasgow City Region and Orkney, especially given the hard work that went into all five applications,” he wrote.
“The beauty of freeports, however, is that the ripples of economic growth will be felt across Scotland.”
Mr Jack said he understood the frustration felt by those in Aberdeen and Peterhead, but wanted to reassure people that the UK Government is “right behind the north-east” and that any suggestions to the contrary are “wide of the mark.”
Reiterating Westminster’s recent push for energy security, he said the government fully recognised the “vital role” played by North Sea oil and gas, especially in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and soaring energy prices.
At the same time, he said the administration was “acutely aware” of the “uniquely talented” north-east workforce and is “working hard to support its people and the magnificent contribution they make to our energy supplies and economy.”
Mr Jack also said Westminster also remains committed to supporting the north east’s carbon capture and storage (CCS) ambitions, and pointed to the £40m in central funding to support the Acorn project at the St Fergus Gas Terminal.
Yet the Track 2 process – the next tranche of a £1bn CCS development fund from Westminster – has been delayed, having been expected last year, with project developers left in the dark as to when they will be able to get underway.
“Although the Acorn project is a ‘reserve’ project at the minute, there will be further opportunities for it to get the green light when the second phase of the UK Government’s carbon capture and storage scheme is rolled out,” Mr Jack said.
It comes just days after Scottish energy secretary Michael Matheson warned MPs that investors may “withdraw” from the scheme as delays continue to mount.
Mr Matheson told a select committee this week that formal support for the scheme may not arrive until as late as 2027.
“I’ve heard various timescales that are quite concerning. I was told there could potentially be a delay up to 2027 at one point,” he said. “I don’t believe that’ll be the case, but I was told that could potentially be the delay.”
Energy minister Graham Stuart later confirmed Westminster would offer an update on the process during the spring, but wouldn’t be drawn on whether there’d be any confirmation on funding for Acorn.