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POLITICS MATTERS: Green freeport must look at socio-economic needs of the Highlands

By David Stewart

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Cromarty Firth.
Cromarty Firth.

Former Labour energy minister at Westminster, Brian Wilson, made an interesting observation on Monday when he argued that there is a gap in the market in Scotland for a liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility.

Why does this matter? Demand for LNG is growing throughout Scotland, particularly since the war in Ukraine. CalMac have installed LNG to part-fuel the two uncompleted ferries at the Ferguson yard in Port Glasgow.

LNG is sourced throughout the world, but the USA and Qatar are major suppliers. However, the route from source to ferry is extremely torturous. LNG is shipped from America to the Isle of Grain in Kent, and then trucked north as far as Uig in Skye.

There is currently a proposal to have an LNG terminal in the Firth of Forth. This would be a floating storage regasification unit which would convert gas into the grid.

In 2017, Scottish Enterprise commissioned a report which concluded that there was an opportunity to develop LNG infrastructure in Scotland. Is this an opportunity for the port bosses within the local Green Freeport to explore further options closer to home?

The Green Freeport was widely welcomed by the business community in the Highlands. The range of tax, non-domestic rates and simplified custom arrangements within the freeport zone are top-notch.

There is seed capital of up to £25 million available, as well as a fast-track planning process. Kate Willard, who chairs Thames Estuary Growth Board, said that: “A freeport is a magnet for business and investment and these economic benefits will ripple across the estuary with jobs, upskilling opportunities, improvements to infrastructure and other benefits.”

Of course, our Green Freeport must do what it says on the tin – address the looming crisis of climate change, transform our local use of energy and develop a hydrogen network.

The Green Freeport cannot do this all on its own, but along with Highland Council and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, it needs to tackle the socio-economic needs of the region, in particular depopulation and upskilling the workforce.

Congrats to the Courier

Huge congratulations to The Inverness Courier for winning the News Media Association’s Making a Difference award 2023 for its Dual The A9 campaign. This was clearly a campaign that local readers related to.

I was particularly impressed with the initiative to hold a leadership hustings with all three SNP candidates – always good to see more political debate happening locally, whatever the party!

Impressive start

Tomorrow I am heading to the Caledonian Stadium to watch Caley Thistle play Ayr. I have been very impressed with new manager Duncan Ferguson and his positive, can-do attitude.

Talking to other fans at previous games, it is great to see energy, enthusiasm and motivation return to the stadium – and that is just in the stands!

Well done to the club bosses for providing the free tickets to all UK military personnel as a symbol of Remembrance Day.

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