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New snub as Aberdeen ‘to miss out’ on freeport

Port of Cromarty Firth
Cromarty Firth is poised to be named a greenport winner

Ministers are expected to announce a second snub to north east Scotland this week by confirming that Cromarty Firth and the Forth will be named as the locations of two green freeports.

Aberdeen oil and gas leaders are already seething over the Scottish government’s plans to speed up the sector’s decline and tonight there was growing dismay that the area’s bid for a tax-beneficial green freeport is likely to be rejected.

Cromarty Firth and the Forth were identified as the favoured locations by Daily Business at the end of November.

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack told a Commons committee on 28 November that a decision had been reached and it was a matter of setting a date for the senior people involved to announce it. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is heading to Scotland this week and it is thought he will announce the new freeports alongside First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Our story last November on the favourites to win

There were five bidders – North East Scotland Green Freeport (NESGF), Opportunity Cromarty Firth, Orkney Green Freeport, Forth Green Freeport (FGF), and Clyde Green Freeport.

They are competing for a package of support that will include £52m in seed funding from the UK Government, tax and customs allowances and investment incentives for areas around airports, seaports and rail terminals.

Ryan Crighton, policy and marketing director at Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce tonight expressed his anger at the likelihood of Aberdeen missing out.

The Chamber yesterday accused the Scottish Government of a “breathtaking betrayal” of the industry with its opposition to further investment.

“Just 24-hours after the Scottish Government told the world it doesn’t want any more oil and gas exploration in the North Sea, it appears that they are also turning their backs on ambitions to make our region a global green energy capital,” said Mr Crighton.

“And as the UK Government squeezes the energy sector dry with a windfall tax, it has also chosen to snub the region which has unlocked over £350 billion of tax revenues from the North Sea.

“The case for a North East Scotland Green Freeport was clear; we have the skills, expertise and infrastructure – and with the tax and other levers of a freeport this region could accelerate the energy transition.

“Instead, both governments have placed our once unshakable status as a global energy capital under threat with a series of awful policy decisions.

“Both governments must now work together to bring forward an additional green freeport, deliver the Acorn carbon capture project in Peterhead and seriously reconsider their mistakes on oil and gas taxation and policy.

“If they allow the prize of becoming a global green energy hub slip away from Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, they will never be forgiven for this catalogue of betrayals.”

Earlier, Net Zero and Energy Secretary Michael Matheson defended the government’s Energy Strategy and the “presumption against new exploration for oil and gas.”

He told a media briefing that “it doesn’t mean exploration cannot take place. It is not a ban.” He said it would provide a test for what was needed.

“Eighty per cent of oil and gas will come from consented sites,” he said. “So new exploration will be marginal and not make a significant difference to output.

“The challenge is to make sure we are not only reducing our demand for fossil fuels but also ramping up renewables. It is about making sure we do it in a managed way.”

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