A bid to create a free port in the Cromarty Firth is being backed by accountants and business advisers Johnston Carmichael.
The Aberdeen-based firm has joined a number of companies and organisations supporting the campaign, led by the Opportunity Cromarty Firth (OCF) group.
Free ports are areas of the UK that are outside the country’s customs territory, meaning goods can be manufactured, imported and exported inside the zone without incurring tariffs.
The Scottish Government is considering setting up a number of the zones, which it refers to as “green ports.”
Johnston Carmichael has joined the OCF steering group, which includes representatives from organisations including the Port of Cromarty Firth (PCF), the Global Energy Group (Geg) Inverness Harbour Trust, the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) and Highland Council.
Mark Stewart, head of energy, infrastructure and sustainability at Johnston Carmichael said: “Opportunity Cromarty Firth has already shown that it has the backing of the Highland’s leading organisations and it is with great pride that we join this steering group to help make this ‘green port’ vision a reality.
We believe that the Cromarty Firth is uniquely positioned to offer the perfect location to support and enable job creation and economic growth which could bring transformative change across not only the Highlands, but Scotland as a whole.”
He added: “The free port model includes a unique package of tax reliefs, including Enhanced Capital Allowances, designed to attract international investment and manufacturing.
“This provides the UK with a major opportunity to maximise activity and trade with overseas markets.”
PCF chief executive Bob Buskie, speaking on behalf of OCF, said: “We are delighted that Johnston Carmichael has joined the Opportunity Cromarty Firth steering group and we welcome them as we concentrate our efforts on giving the region the best possible platform to become a freeport and achieve ‘green port’ status.
“Their unrivalled accountancy and tax expertise will be essential to maximising the key advantages stemming from the free port business model in order to deliver a sustainable pipeline of jobs and supply chain opportunities to the Highlands.
The attractive business rates and tax benefits associated with free ports will help the region attract more investment and deliver on our ambitions from the significant prospects in offshore renewables.
“Through our collective assets and resources, and with the addition of Johnston Carmichael’s expertise, we will work to ensure the benefits of implementing a free port in our region are realised.”
OCF’s bid to establish a free port was launched last year, and the group said it could secure work and jobs in the area for 50 years.
Founded in Moray in 1936, Johnston Carmichael has grown to become the largest independent firm of chartered accountants and business advisers in Scotland. It has 13 offices across the UK including Aberdeen, Dundee, and Inverness, and operates in 150 countries.