Billionaire Sir Ian Wood has led a pledge of “unwavering support” for a bid to win green freeport status in the north east.
The region is in a fierce competition with other ports consortiums in Scotland to land a share of £52 million of government funding alongside a package of tax and customs allowances and investment incentives.
Five areas have made bids to become green freeports under a scheme agreed by the Scottish and UK Governments, but only two will win.
North east is ‘uniquely positioned’
A letter signed by Sir Ian on behalf of the board of ETZ ltd said a north east green freeport will be “crucial” to the UK and Scotland achieving net zero carbon targets and argued the region is “uniquely positioned within the UK to take advantage of this opportunity”.
It further highlighted ambitions set out by both First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who backed a Scottish Government pledge to help reposition the region as the “net zero capital of Europe”, as well as chancellor Rishi Sunak who allocated £27 million to ensure the Enery Transition Zone, which falls squarely in the area of a north east green freeport, would be a “green energy hub”.
The letter argued the North East of Scotland Green Freeport will make “both the Scottish and UK Government commitments a reality”, adding that the tax and customs levers on offer to the Energy Transition Zone “will be a crucial driver in achieving Scottish and UK net zero targets at pace”.
The North East Scotland Green Freeport consortium is led by the Port of Aberdeen, Peterhead Port Authority, Aberdeen International Airport, and the region’s two local authorities.
The group has estimated a successful bid would create 30,000 jobs in the north-east.
ETZ is leading plans to redevelop around 30-40 ha of land alongside the Port of Aberdeen’s new £400milllion south harbour.
The letter said the ETZ board has also been “at the centre of discussions” around the green freeport bid and that it would provide “private sector representation on the governing board through implementation, delivery and operational phases”.
‘No doubt’ north east bid would attract investors
It added: “Our significant engagement with companies across the energy industry – from global energy companies and large service companies to small to medium sized enterprises and start ups – has underlined the significance of securing green freeport status as part of this process.
“These conversations and our first-hand knowledge given the companies we represent, have left us in no doubt that green freeport status for the north-east of Scotland would catalyse private sector investment from indigenous companies and existing overseas investors and help attract globally mobile investment.”
It further argued a green freeport in Aberdeen and Peterhead would “cement the bridge” between oil and gas and the low carbon energies such was hydrogen.
“We are uniquely positioned within the UK to take advantage of this opportunity.”
Who are the Scottish green freeport runners and riders?
In addtion to the bid by North East Scotland Green Freeport (NESGF) group there are four rival bidders.
Opportunity Cromarty Firth, which is being led by Port of Cromarty Firth and Global Energy Group alongside Port of Inverness and Inverness Airport, has estimated a successful bid on the west coast of Scotland will create 20,000 jobs across the Highlands.
Orkney Council has also thrown its hat into the ring for an Orkney Green Freeport.
There are two further bids in the central belt:
What is a green freeport?
A “green freeport” is a large zoned area within a defined boundary extending around 28 miles (45km) which includes rail, sea or airport.
Operators and businesses in the zone can benefit from a package of tax and other incentives, with supporters saying they fuel economic growth.
The concept has attracted support from across the political spectrum, aside from Greens who do not back green freeports.
North East Green MSP Maggie Chapman said it’s all just a “greenwashed Brexit project”.