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by Louise Wilson
13 January 2023
Cromarty and Forth win green freeport bids

Aerial view from drone of Port of Cromarty Firth | Iain Masterton / Alamy Stock Photo

Cromarty and Forth win green freeport bids

The two Scottish green freeports are to be located in Cromarty and the Firth of Forth, it has been announced.

The freeports are expected to create 75,000 extra jobs across the UK and are backed by £52 million.

It is hoped they will boost the economy by creating zones where different economic regulations will apply, including lighter tax burdens.

Their creation is backed by both the UK and Scottish Governments.

While the initiative has come from the UK Government, it required the support of the Scottish Government as many of the relevant policy areas the freeports will touch on are devolved.

Making the announcement while on his first trip to Scotland since becoming prime minister, Rishi Sunak said: “In extending the benefits of freeports to Scotland, we are unleashing the potential of the Firth of Forth and Inverness and Cromarty Firth – backing the delivery of thousands of high-quality green jobs for future generations, as we continue to make gains on our commitments to transition to net zero.”

The Inverness and Cromarty Firth freeport is expected to create 25,000 jobs and attract £2.6bn of inward investment. It will focus on the floating offshore wind manufacturing sector and green hydrogen sector.

The Forth Green freeport will create 50,000 job, generating £6bn investment, and will focus on renewables, advanced manufacturing, alternative fuels, carbon capture and storage, shipbuilding, logistics and the creative industries.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “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.”

However, opponents of the freeports – including the SNP’s partners in government, the Scottish Greens – have expressed concern that the lighter regulations will open up the UK to money laundering and tax avoidance.

Green finance spokesperson Ross Greer MSP said: “Under the deal struck for Scottish freeports there are no hard requirements for the companies to meet climate targets or implement fair work practices. Warm words don't protect people and the environment from greedy corporations, legal obligations do. In this case there is plenty of the former and nowhere near enough of the latter. Freeports will only benefit the super-rich and the big corporations who have pushed hardest for them.”

The two freeports are expected to be operational later this year.

The Prime Minister is expected to stay in Scotland for most of the day. He also met with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in Inverness last night.

The pair discussed the economy, the NHS and Scottish independence, as well as the UK Government’s concerns about the Scottish Gender Recognition Reform Bill.

The bill, which was passed by Holyrood last month, is designed to make it easier for trans people to legally change their gender – but there are concerns that some of the impacts are outwith the competencies of the Scottish Parliament.

The UK Government is considering whether to intervene to prevent the bill from receiving Royal Assent. The deadline to do so is next week.

Speaking on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland on Friday, Sunak said: “What I'm concerned about is the impact of the bill across the United Kingdom. As is entirely standard, the UK government would take advice on that.

“There may be impacts across the UK that we need to be aware of and understand the impact of them. That is what we are doing, and once the government has received final advice it will set out next steps.”

Previously the Scottish Government has said it will “vigorously contest” any attempt to prevent the bill becoming law.

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