Over 100 leaders representing more than 20,000 people living and working in the north-east have signed a letter calling for a green freeport to be based in Aberdeen and Peterhead.
The signatories represent a broad spectrum of society, hailing from academia, industry and politics, both local and national.
By signing the letter, which has been published in The Press and Journal, the backers are putting their support behind a plan to create 32,000 high-quality jobs and boost the region’s economy by £8.5 billion over the next decade.
Competition is fierce
Competition is heating up to secure green freeport status which includes a share of £52 million of government funding alongside a package of tax and customs allowances and investment incentives.
There are five bids for the status being considered jointly by the Scottish and UK governments – but only two will be selected when the decision is made at the end of summer.
The closest competition is thought to be between the North East Scotland Green Freeport consortium and Opportunity Cromarty Firth (OCF), the group leading the bid for a green freeport in the Highlands.
Glasgow is also angling for a bid with the Clyde Green Freeport proposal.
Who has signed?
Taken together the signatories of the letter represent businesses that employ over 20,000 people across the region, organisers said.
People endorsing the letter backing the north-east proposal include: Martin Gilbert, chairman of the Net Zero Technology Centre and founder of Aberdeen Asset Management; Sian Lloyd Rees, UK managing director, Aker Offshore Wind; Deborah O’Neill, chief executive of Novabiotics; Sir Jim Milne, chairman, Balmoral Group; Stewart Milne, executive chairman, Stewart Milne Homes and Sir Ian Wood, ETZ Ltd chairman.
The letter is also signed by senior representatives from across the energy supply chain including Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group, BP, Proserv, PX Group and Shell.
Signatories also come from outside the sector, with support from the premium food and drink companies including Strachans and Farmlay Eggs and a number of SMEs from across the region.
Supporters also include 11 north-east parliamentarians from both the SNP and Conservative parties and the leadership of both Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Councils.
The principals of the University of Aberdeen, Robert Gordon University and North East Scotland College have also thrown their weight behind the bid.
Support is ‘incredible’
The North East Scotland Green Freeport bid is a collaborative venture between Port of Aberdeen, Peterhead Port Authority, Aberdeen International Airport, Aberdeen City Council and Aberdeenshire Council bidding for green freeport status from the Scottish Government and UK Government.
Consortium partner and Port of Aberdeen chief executive Bob Sanguinetti said the letter has “united the region behind our ambition to reposition the north-east of Scotland as the net zero capital of Europe”.
He said: “With the backing of the Scottish Government and UK Government, we will continue to make a crucial contribution to national energy security and international competitiveness.
“The breadth of support for the bid is incredible, from SMEs to multinationals and across all the region’s key sectors.
We’ll create thousands of high-quality jobs and opportunities for those that need them most.”
Port of Aberdeen chief executive Bob Sanguinetti
“These types of existing businesses will be supported to invest, innovate, and develop skills as well as attract new investment to deliver a wide range of pioneering new projects.
“Improving the lives of local people and communities is fundamental to the North East Scotland Green Freeport bid.
“We’ll create thousands of high-quality jobs and opportunities for those that need them most, stimulate local and wider regeneration and amplify the value of the green freeport investment to level up deprived communities, enabling and accelerating a just transition.”
Mr Sanguinetti was backed by his counterpart at Peterhead Port Authority (PPA).
Simon Brebner, chief executive of PPA said: “Peterhead Port has been at the heart of the region’s success – whether that be via its pre-eminent position as Europe’s leading fishing port, or via trade or energy – for the last 400 years and is committed to working alongside our partners to ensure a successful conclusion to our bid.
“We are all aware how important this is to the north-east of Scotland and UK plc.
“We can be the focus and facilitator for the world in the energy transition and achieving carbon net zero, and also help our fabulous food and drink sector, particularly seafood, expand its reach further across the globe.”
The letter says:
For over fifty years, the north-east of Scotland has made a crucial contribution to Scottish and UK energy security and international competitiveness.
There is now a unique opportunity to usher in a new era of accelerated regeneration, decarbonisation, innovation and investment, creating 32,000 high quality jobs and opportunities for those who need them most.
With Scottish and UK Government backing, the North East Scotland Green Freeport can boost GVA by £8.5bn over the next decade and transform the region into the net zero capital of Europe.
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 claiming it is a “greenwashed Brexit project”.