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Jobs forecast for Highland green freeport appears to have dropped

By Rachel Smart

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Questions are now being raised about the number of jobs previously forecasted for the site.
Questions are now being raised about the number of jobs previously forecasted for the site.

A UK government report indicates the number of jobs produced by the Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport could be less than previously forecast.

But the boss of the project stressed the report is not looking at the wider picture when it comes to associated jobs - yet conceded projections will go up and down in years to come.

According to the report from the Subsidy Advice Unit (SAU) - part of the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) - 19,400 jobs would be created as a result of the establishment of Green Freeport Areas for both Inverness and Cromarty Firth and the Forth.

Previous Scottish Government figures claimed 25,000 jobs would be created by the creation of the Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport alone, with potential for a further 50,000 at the Forth Green Freeport.

So the total prediction of around 75,000 jobs for Scotland’s green freeports appears to have dropped to 19,400 according to this report.

On Tuesday morning of this week a section on the benefits of freeport status on the Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport website read: “The project is set to deliver 15,000 good quality well-paid jobs over the next 10 years in the Highlands with a further 10,000 jobs across Scotland and the UK.”

However, after The Inverness Courier contacted the organisation for comment, this was changed to read: “Our initial socio-impact analysis suggested that the region could expect 15,000 new jobs.”

Calum MacPherson, chief executive of the Highland freeport, said: “We remain confident that the significant number of jobs will be created both in the green freeport and across the country because of the economic activity the programme will stimulate.

“The CMA report refers only to jobs created on the tax sites as a result of investment incentives.

“As developed at outline business case stage last year, our number correctly includes these jobs, plus all operational jobs on tax sites, construction employment, the indirect supply chain, as well as the impact from the spending of wages and salaries in the wider economy.

“Over the life of the Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport, we still project over 10,000 jobs in the Highlands and a further 6500 across the UK.

“The initial figures were reviewed for the outline business case and will continue to be reviewed for the final business case, so could change in line with further economic research. The projected number will evolve both up and down over the coming years, so we’ve opted for a number which is evidence-based and what we believe to be conservative.”

Highland economist Tony Mackay was less optimistic about the likelihood of realising tens of thousands of jobs.

“The economic forecasts for the Scottish and UK economies over the next few years are quite pessimistic, averaging less than two per cent growth a year,” he said.

“For potential investors, there is the added complication of a UK General Election in the next few months.”

He said that the resignation of First Minister Humza Yousaf this week would also “create more uncertainty for potential investors”, adding: “The earlier forecast of 25,000 jobs for the Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport was ludicrously high. This report from the Competition and Markets Authority is ‘tedious’ to read but makes some very good and realistic points.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government expects significant numbers of jobs to be created both in the green freeports themselves and further afield, as a result of the economic activity the programme will stimulate.

“The figures in the Competition and Market Authority’s report represent the latest view from Scottish Government and UK government of the jobs that can be expected to be created directly as a result of the green freeport tax reliefs and seed capital funding, based on current information.

“The total number of jobs created at green freeport sites is expected to be higher than this figure as a result of commercial investment.”

Mr Mackay added: “The forecasts in this UK government report are only about 25 per cent of the earlier forecasts.”

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