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HIE endorses green freeport bids

Published: 28/09/2022

Locating a green freeport in the Highlands and Islands is likely to have greater impact for Scotland and the UK than any other location.

Stuart Black, HIE's chief executive (credit: John Paul/HIE)

Locating a green freeport in the Highlands and Islands is likely to have greater impact for Scotland and the UK than any other location.

This is according to HIE’s chief executive.

Writing on the agency’s website, Stuart Black has highlighted the strengths of the region’s two bids; Opportunity Cromarty Firth (OCF) and Orkney.

He said:

“Thanks to our natural assets and £300m investment in ports and harbours over the past ten years, we have the geography and the infrastructure to accommodate all that a green freeport needs. The region has a long proud heritage of fabrication and engineering, going back to the 1970s oil boom.

“Green freeport status would help transform the region’s economy and contribute considerably to meeting national net-zero targets. It would attract tens of millions of pounds in UK Government seed funding, create around 20,000 green jobs and trigger many new supply chains.

“On a broader level, it would bring housebuilding, better schooling, healthcare and amenities for local people. Wider jobs would be created indirectly across sectors such as hospitality, retail and leisure, teaching and healthcare.”

Dr Black said the designation would attract large-scale manufacturing industries and create thousands of green jobs that complement the skills of the workforce. He added:

“Securing these industries and opportunities in the Highlands and Islands would accelerate economic growth and regeneration in the region, and the rate at which Scotland as a whole would benefit.”

A green freeport is a large, zoned area within a defined boundary that includes at least one rail, sea or airport but can extend 45km beyond.

They are designed to boost economic growth through various targeted taxes, customs, and other incentives (both reserved and devolved), including planning, regeneration, and innovation.

Last year, eight freeports were identified in England. In March this year, the UK and Scottish Governments published a bidding prospectus to create two green freeports in Scotland, with the UK Government pledging £52m seed funding.

Bids have been assessed since the deadline in June and a joint decision between the Scottish and UK governments is expected this month.

Optimistic about the region’s prospects, Stuart Black added:

“There are of course several other strong bids from across Scotland, however in meeting the ‘levelling-up’ agenda I am in no doubt that the impacts of a green freeport in the Highlands and Islands region would be proportionately greater than anywhere else."