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North politicians band together to back 'once-in-a-lifetime transformational change' offered by a green freeport with thousands of jobs and billions of pounds on the line SNP, Conservatives, Labour and LibDems all say – 'This is the best bid'

By Scott Maclennan

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

North politicians from all the major parties have united to sign a cross-party letter of support for the jobs and investment that would come through a successful bid to establish a Green Freeport in the Highlands.

Three MPs and five MSPs signed a letter which was submitted with the bid telling ministers that winning the status would provide the opportunity for “once-in-a-lifetime transformational change” for the region.

Those who put their names to it are – MPs Ian Blackford, Drew Hendry and Jamie Stone and by MSPs Donald Cameron, Rhoda Grant, Jamie Halcro Johnston, Edward Mountain, and Maree Todd.

In it they said: “The establishment of a Green Freeport in the Highlands would provide the opportunity for once-in-a-lifetime transformational change. We are excited at the prospect.

“The Highland region has particular challenges, lower-than-average incomes and productivity, and multi-generational population decline. It desperately needs new job opportunities to reverse these present trends. We believe this is possible but we need help.

“We have £20-30 billion investment opportunities on our doorstep and Green Freeport status, and its accompanying benefits, is exactly the vehicle we need to ensure they can be realised.”

The move by SNP, Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat politicians underlines what is seen as the strength of the bid by Opportunity Cromarty Firth (OCF) which has the full backing of the renewables industry.

Last month, in an almost unique show unity of energy giants like Shell, Orsted, SSE Renewables and Scottish Power Renewables backed a call saying that the Cromarty Firth was the “only” suitable place in Scotland for Green Freeport.

The letter to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up urged the UK government to choose Inverness and the Cromarty Firth as the location for a Green Freeport when it chooses two out of the five bids.

The north politicians stated: “The area is uniquely placed to benefit the whole of the UK through energy security, trade and investment, lower cost electricity and speeding progress towards net-zero.

“It can create tens of thousands of high-quality fair, green jobs, thus meeting the Scottish and UK governments’ regeneration, trade and investment and net-zero objectives.

“This bid not only delivers on the government’s Green Freeport objectives, but also the levelling up agenda; spreading opportunity more equally across Scotland.

“It has the land space, some of the deepest waters and quaysides in the UK, sheltered anchorage locations and a cluster of best-in-class companies working together to compete with leading offshore energy port hubs across Europe.”

They added that Inverness and the Cromarty Firth offers “the only location in Scotland with the port infrastructure and experienced supply chain in place to deliver UK energy security through offshore wind, floating wind, pumped hydro storage, green hydrogen and critical manufacturing for the nuclear sector.”

Speaking on behalf of OCF, Port of Cromarty Firth chief executive, Bob Buskie, said: “We very much welcome this strong show of cross-party support from our elected representatives from across the Highlands for what we are confident is a compelling bid for Green Freeport status for Inverness and the Cromarty Firth.

“It echoes what industry and others have said, pointing out that the area is already in pole position in the development of offshore wind and other technologies needed to deliver UK energy security and lower cost electricity. We also wholeheartedly agree that the Highland economy urgently needs the transformational opportunity that Green Freeport status can bring.”

The OCF consortium, launched in 2020, includes the ports of Cromarty Firth, Nigg and Inverness and also Inverness Airport. It is backed by Inverness Chamber of Commerce and more than a dozen businesses, as well as public sector organisations, and academic bodies, including Highland Council and the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI).

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