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Heavyweight support for Highland green freeport bid as Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross says the Cromarty Firth 'has everything going for it' and 'ticks all the boxes' when it comes to net zero ambitions, Levelling Up and transforming the local economy

By Scott Maclennan

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Scottish Conservative leader MSP Douglas Ross and Joanne Allday, from the Port of Cromarty Firth.
Scottish Conservative leader MSP Douglas Ross and Joanne Allday, from the Port of Cromarty Firth.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross has thrown his backing behind the Highland green freeport bid just days after a cross-party group of MPs and MSPs issued a joint letter confirming their support.

It is the latest major endorsement for the bid by Opportunity Cromarty Firth (OCF) after energy giants Shell, Orsted, SSE Renewables and Scottish Power Renewables and others did the same.

The ambition by the OCF consortium is to establish a green freeport on the Cromarty Firth, including a hub for hydrogen energy, which also envelops parts of Inverness like the port and airport.

At stake is investment and revenues from offshore wind just off the coast worth an estimated £26-£30 billion by the 2030s as well as 15,000 jobs locally and 10,000 elsewhere in Scotland.

After a visit to the Port of Cromarty Firth, Mr Ross argued that the bid “has everything going for it” and “ticks all the boxes” when it comes to net zero ambitions, Levelling Up and having a transformative impact locally.

“The thing to do is be unashamedly really positive about what is on offer here and what can be delivered here,” he said.

“We have five very competitive bids from across Scotland and I think that’s really good. But when you both see just how impressive the site is here and how that would build into the overall freeport bid it has everything going for it.

“This is an area that would see massive investment both financially but with people coming to the area and the jobs that could be created here mean wider benefits across the community are huge, which is why I think it ticks all of the boxes.”

On top of that, Mr Ross believes the location could not be improved when it comes to working on offshore wind farms, saying: “We’re speaking a lot about the race to net zero and what we need to do in terms of building more energy resources from renewables and we’re ideally situated here.

“Also, I’m a member of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee that’s looking into hydrogen, an area I hadn’t really focused on much before but there are great opportunities here with green hydrogen going forward.”

The letter from industry also hit home with him, as he says: “First of all – these letters don’t happen very often. You don’t get competitors coming together in this way from across the sector all jointly signing up to a letter that is so positive about what could be achieved here.

“They can see the benefits of this bid. That’s why they’re involved in it and that’s why they’re urging both the Scottish and UK governments to back it. So this is almost unique, I think, in my time, in politics, to see such a compelling case made by industry for an individual bid like this.”

Decisions on the bids will be made by UK and Scottish government ministers.

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