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FERGUS EWING: Excellent cross-party group work done in the Highlands to support green freeport bid by Opportunity Cromarty Firth

By Fergus Ewing

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Councillor Raymond Bremner leader of Highland Council, Rhoda Grant MSP, Maree Todd MSP and Jamie Stone MP. Picture: Callum Mackay..
Councillor Raymond Bremner leader of Highland Council, Rhoda Grant MSP, Maree Todd MSP and Jamie Stone MP. Picture: Callum Mackay..

The Highlands are at the heart of new industries to tackle climate change and provide energy security.

The Highlands have a series of opportunities now, which can provide a vibrant exciting future for our youngsters for the rest of this century. These have been highlighted by a report just published by the industry body Offshore Energy UK.

It finds that there are opportunities worth a staggering £20 billion in the next 10 years and £100 billion by 2050.

These are in carbon capture and storage, blue and green hydrogen and electrification of oil and gas platforms.

All of these relatively new industries will be needed if climate change targets are to be met. All involve using the expertise built up here over decades in our oil and gas sector – where our abilities and experience of our workforce are recognised as world class.

Without these skills, we simply cannot deliver these new industries.

Alongside this work, there has been excellent cross-party group work in the Highlands where all the main political parties support the bid by Opportunity Cromarty Firth for green freeport status. This brings together several players in Inverness Port, Global Energy and Cromarty Firth.

I am the convenor of the cross-party group in Holyrood on oil and gas, and believe that this cross-party support for the Highlands bid makes it more likely to win out against stiff competition elsewhere in Scotland.

There is also a growing realisation that we need to explain what a “Just Transition” from fossil fuels will actually mean in practice. A timeline and plan, setting out what can be practically achieved over the next decades, and thus showing for how long we will continue to rely on oil and gas is a key part of that.

In addition to all of that, the Highlands are the home of most renewable technologies which give the potential for a very, very strong economy and one where our children have more opportunities to make a good life here rather than have to leave, seeking work elsewhere.

We have in our North Sea aquifers, the capacity to store all UK carbon emissions for the next two centuries.

Delivery of this potential will require much more cross-party working, which I am delighted to see the Highland Council support alongside MPs and MSPs from the north, including myself.

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