Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

Jim Smith: Green freeport for Inverness and Cromarty Firth would be pivotal for entire UK

The Cromarty Firth could evolve to become a new centre for renewable, green energy (Photo: John Hopwood/Shutterstock)
The Cromarty Firth could evolve to become a new centre for renewable, green energy (Photo: John Hopwood/Shutterstock)

I am delighted to be taking on the role of chair of Opportunity Cromarty Firth (OCF) at the dawn of an exciting and important era for the firth and the Highlands.

As the focal point for the rapid development of the UK’s new offshore wind industry, the region is going to be at the heart of the country’s energy production map for decades to come.

Government decisions made this summer will determine whether the most will be made of this once-in-a-generation opportunity.

I am certain the key to ensuring the maximum long-term benefits are realised, not just for the Highlands but for Scotland and the UK as a whole, lies in the establishment of a green freeport, centred on Inverness and the Cromarty Firth.

Green freeport status will be pivotal in maximising the UK share of manufacturing, or “local content” for the offshore wind industry and, in particular, for the emerging floating wind sector, in which the country has the potential to take a world-leading role. That will be critical in turning forecasts of tens of thousands of new, high quality jobs and billions of pounds of fresh investment into a reality, delivering a lasting fillip to the economy.

With targets including a fourfold increase in offshore wind capacity by 2030, the renewables industry is united on the importance of green freeport status to achieving 60% local content targets.

Cromarty Firth is ahead in offshore wind industry development

In a recent open letter to the Scottish and UK Governments, 13 leading developers, including Shell and my own former employer SSE Renewables, expressed their support for the Inverness and Cromarty Firth bid.

They told ministers: “Whilst the (Green) Freeports programme may not have been designed to be the UK’s most powerful tool in delivering this local content, the scale of the investment incentives on offer, and their timing (just as the industry needs to gear up to deliver the UK pipeline) means this is what they have become.

Several big businesses are backing the bid for a green freeport (Photo: Malcolm McCurrach | New Wave Images UK)

“Humber and Teesside are demonstrating just what can be achieved for the UK economy, but only with the benefit of Freeport investment incentives alongside the UK’s offshore wind grant regime. New offshore wind manufacturing in Scotland will be similarly dependent.

“This means that the forthcoming Green Freeport decisions in Scotland look set to decide the future of UK offshore wind manufacturing, and floating wind in particular, including in terms of the critical question of UK content.”

It is no coincidence the Cromarty Firth ports of Nigg and Invergordon have already been the focal point for the recent development of three of the four major offshore windfarms in Scottish waters

As the companies also pointed out, the Cromarty Firth is already in pole position in the development of the offshore wind industry, and is the only location in Scotland with the land space, facilities and experienced supply chain needed to deliver floating wind at the scale and speed to meet current targets and compete with established facilities abroad.

Historical role of Highlands in oil and gas industry must be recognised

The firth will also play a key role in the development of a new green hydrogen sector and in electrifying oil and gas production.

It is no coincidence the Cromarty Firth ports of Nigg and Invergordon have already been the focal point for the recent development of three of the four major offshore windfarms in Scottish waters. That role is set to increase significantly as ScotWind projects are developed.

Turbine towers being transferred by crane at the Port of Nigg quayside. (Photo: Global Wind Projects)

In a just transition from reliance on fossil fuels to cleaner, greener ways of producing energy, the role of the Highlands as well as the north-east of Scotland in the oil and gas industry must also be recognised. With a proud history of fabrication, inspection, repair and maintenance for the North Sea and fields around the world, stretching back more than 50 years, many workers based in the region still rely on the sector for employment.

Under the banner of OCF, a partnership of ports, private and public sector organisations and academia has been working together for more than two years with the aim of coupling the green energy revolution on the area’s doorstep.

I am excited to be part of it, and urge ministers to make what we and industry believe is the obvious choice.


Jim Smith has agreed to take on the role of chair of Opportunity Cromarty Firth. He previously worked for more than 30 years with SSE

Highlands green freeport bid gets a boost as former renewables industry big hitter takes charge

Conversation