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Sir Ian: ‘We need intervention’ after freeports deal

Sir Ian Wood on Question Time
Sir Ian Wood: we need meaningful intervention

Aberdeen tycoon Sir Ian Wood has called for “meaningful intervention” after the north east missed out on the awarding of two green freeports in Scotland.

As predicted, Inverness and Cromarty Firth, together with the Forth, have been confirmed as the locations for the new tax-beneficial zones.

They will be supported by up to £52 million in start-up funding and and other incentives through a combination of devolved and reserved powers.

The decision confirms a Daily Business report on 28 November, but it has been met with disappointment by those behind the joint Aberdeen and Peterhead proposal as well as those who backed the bid from the Clyde group. Orkney, the smallest of the shortlisted bidders, was always regarded an an outsider.

Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce has already expressed its anger, following its concerns over this week’s energy strategy which signalled a rapid downgrading of support for the oil and gas sector.

Sir Ian, chairman of ETZ which was part of the unsuccessful Aberdeen bid, congratulated both Cromarty and Forth Ports and wished them well “in delivering their respective ambitions.”

But he called for the two governments to take urgent action to show how they would help the north east.

“We are, of course, hugely disappointed that the North East Green Freeport has not been approved,” he said.

“The UK Government has emphasised the importance of meeting its net zero targets and protecting the country’s energy security, while the Scottish Government has expressed its commitment to repositioning the North East of Scotland as the ‘Net Zero Capital of the World.’

“We have a world-class energy sector and the North East is uniquely positioned to meet both of these ambitions.

Port of Cromarty Firth
Success: Port of Cromarty

“So, despite this setback, we will continue to strive to bring large-scale, advanced manufacturing and technology to Aberdeen to maximise economic benefit from Scotland’s rapidly growing offshore wind and hydrogen sectors and accelerate pioneering carbon capture projects on the Buchan coast.”

Sir Ian said the decision would add to the negative the impact of the UK government’s windfall tax on oil and gas company profits and the Scottish Government’s presumption against oil and gas exploration.

“The UK Government’s overly severe application of the Energy Profits Levy and the Scottish Government’s new position supporting a presumption against oil and gas exploration, are economically damaging and seriously risk creating an adverse environment for investment in the industry at a time we need to be doing all we can to maximise our energy security and sustain jobs to support energy transition and meet net zero targets,” he said.

“Awarding North East Scotland Green Freeport status would have significantly helped in ameliorating these policies.

“It is therefore now incumbent upon both Governments to act swiftly and demonstrate their long term-support for the region through meaningful interventions that ensure we continue to play a leading role in securing both Scotland and the UK’s energy and economic security for generations to come.”

Stuart Patrick, chief executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, added his concern about the impact of the decision on Scotland’s biggest conurbation. He said: “We are incredibly disappointed with today’s announcement on the Clyde Green Freeport bid.  

“Overlooking Scotland’s entire West Coast risks making both the UK Government’s Levelling Up strategy and delivery of the Scottish Government’s commitment to a Clyde Mission extremely challenging. Therefore, we would welcome immediate engagement with both governments to ensure Glasgow isn’t left behind – again.”

The Scottish SNP Government’s Green party partners criticised the establishment of any freeports, describing them as a “failed and dated Tory gimmick that will only benefit the super-rich and major corporations”.

Applicants to become a Green Freeport in Scotland were required to demonstrate how they would contribute towards a just transition to net zero emissions by 2045 and create new, green jobs. They were also required to set out how they would support high-quality employment opportunities with fair work conditions at their core.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “This is a milestone achievement in the process to deliver Green Freeports for Scotland. Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport and Forth Green Freeport will support businesses to create high-quality, well-paid new jobs, promote growth and regeneration, and make a significant contribution to achieving our net zero ambitions.

John Swinney

John Swinney: rigorous process

“A rigorous joint selection process has been followed. The successful applicants showed a strong determination to embed fair work practices, including payment of the Real Living Wage, and to enshrine net zero initiatives in their work.

“We look forward to working closely with them to ensure they deliver maximum positive impact and become operational as soon as possible.

“We will also work with the unsuccessful bidders to consider how they can build on the plans set out in their bids to deliver jobs and growth in their regions outside the Green Freeports programme.

Cromarty Firth greenport
Forecast: our report from last year

“Scotland has a rich history of innovation, trade and manufacturing and as we look to seize the many opportunities achieving net zero offers, the creation of these internationally competitive clusters of excellence will help us to create new green jobs, deliver a just transition and support our economic transformation.”

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said: “Scotland has areas of outstanding opportunity but there are also places that can benefit from more investment to truly level up communities that have been overlooked.

“This is a shared challenge faced by us all across the UK, which is why I’m delighted the UK and Scottish governments have collaborated to deliver two Green Freeports in Scotland, which will undoubtedly be transformative for future generations.

“Inverness and Cromarty Firth and the Firth of Forth are fantastic areas for these new Green Freeports to set up, ensuring the benefits are felt right across Scotland. This will help to create exciting new jobs, boost business and encourage investment in the local areas and beyond.”

Scottish Renewables’ head of energy transition and supply chain Emma Harrick said: “The Cromarty Firth is a natural home for offshore wind with large areas suitable for the storage of parts and equipment, the capacity for significant expansion and plans to bring renewables manufacturing to the Highlands.

“The area also has the potential to enable the production, storage and distribution of green hydrogen at scale.

“The Forth region is already home to several offshore wind farms and the Green Freeport sites could act as gateways to those, as well as others which are yet to be developed. A proposed renewables hub at the Port of Leith, as well as an ambitious offshore renewables manufacturing facility at Rosyth, are exciting steps forward and will also benefit as part of the Forth Green Freeport plans.

“Both green freeports will help Scotland compete on the international stage as offshore wind develops to become the mainstay of electricity generation in the UK.”


The Forth Green Freeport bid aspires to deliver up to an additional 50,000 jobs across the UK, generate £6 billion in investment and contribute over £4 billion in GVA across sites in Grangemouth, Rosyth, Leith, Burntisland and Edinburgh Airport. Its activities will focus on renewables, advanced manufacturing, alternative fuels, carbon capture utilisation and storage, shipbuilding, logistics and the creative industries.

The Forth Green Freeport consortium is a private and public partnership that includes: Forth Ports; Babcock; INEOS; Edinburgh Airport; Scarborough Muir Group; Falkirk Council; Fife Council; and The City of Edinburgh Council.

The Inverness and Cromarty Firth bid aims to build a world-beating floating offshore wind manufacturing sector, with sites in the Cromarty Firth, Invergordon, Nigg, and Inverness. It expects to create up to 25,000 jobs and attract £2.6 billion in inward investment. In addition to offshore wind manufacturing, it will focus on green hydrogen and creating a new innovation cluster.

The bidding prospectus set out the requirements for applicants as well as the assessment and selection process. The Scottish Government will publish more information on the outcome of the assessment and selection process in due course.

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