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BUSINESS INSIGHT: Where are the Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport’s workers going to come from?


By David Richardson

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The establishment of special tax sites for Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport (ICFGF) have been welcomed by business leaders and politicians.
The establishment of special tax sites for Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport (ICFGF) have been welcomed by business leaders and politicians.

Opportunity is knocking for the Highlands. So said the Inverness & Cromarty Firth Green Freeport’s CEO, Calum MacPherson, at our recent FSB Highlands & Moray Business Bootcamp, for if we get it right, the long-term impact on the local economy of the anticipated £3 billion investment in the freeport – the largest in Scotland in our lifetimes – will be massive.

WATCH: Demystifying the questions arising around the Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport

Calum MacPherson CEO of Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport. Picture: Callum Mackay..
Calum MacPherson CEO of Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport. Picture: Callum Mackay..

Over 10,000 new jobs are forecast in the next 10-15 years, attracting workers and their families to move in, presenting our home-grown young people with exciting career opportunities and reasons to stay on, and helping to reverse population decline.

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As things stand, with Highland unemployment sitting at 2.5 per cent and too many vacancies chasing too few job seekers, many Highland businesses are already having to cut opening hours, services offered or both, and much worse is to come. Using government population publications, Highland Council’s latest secondary school roll forecasts for the region’s 29 schools for the 15 years to 2038/39 predict a truly shocking 23 per cent decline. The ‘best performer’ is Culloden Academy at minus 10 per cent!

How are the many businesses already struggling to find staff going to sustain themselves, and where are the freeport’s workers going to come from? Is the latter going to have to try to lure workers from the former? How are all businesses going to meet consumer demand, and what are the long-term consequences for them and our region if they fail?

Quite simply, there isn’t enough affordable accommodation to meet current, let alone future, needs, and until there is the economic and social future for our region is jeopardised. So, as a matter of extreme urgency, we must restore and repurpose existing buildings and build new.

The Scottish Government’s newly declared housing emergency is very welcome, but it must also invest much more money and introduce the new Masterplan Consent Areas (MCAs) urgently. And while Highland Council is investigating housing needs linked to economic developments and the early adoption of MCAs, we must also convince property developers, landowners and communities to play ball. The future can and will be bright, but only if we work together.

David Richardson is the regional development manager at FSB.


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