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Bidding opens for two green freeports in Scotland

Aberdeen mastermind
Aberdeen Harbour intends to submit a joint bid with Peterhead port.

A bidding process has launched for ports hoping to be granted special tax status in Scotland, following months of tense negotiations.

Two Scottish green freeports will be named this summer after a £52 million deal was finally struck between Holyrood and Westminster.

A guide has been published for bidders who want to establish a green freeport in Scotland.

Aberdeen and Peterhead ports are due to make a joint bid, with Cromarty Firth, Dundee and Rosyth among the other ports hoping to be selected for the special status, which offers tax reliefs and other incentives.

Joint prospectus

The joint prospectus, published in partnership by the Scottish and UK governments, includes payment of the real living wage.

Bidders must also demonstrate how they would contribute to Scotland’s climate ambitions and help reach net zero.

The launch of the bidding process follows lengthy negotiations between the two administrations.

Talks collapsed  over the best model to use for the ports, with the Scottish Government insisting on “red line requests”, including payment of the real living wage.

Economy Secretary Kate Forbes.

Economy Secretary Kate Forbes said the joint prospectus “recognises the distinct needs of Scotland’s economy by clearly setting out how any bids to establish green freeports in Scotland must help to deliver net zero ambitions and embed fair work practices”.

She added: “Earlier this month I published a new national strategy to help transform the economy.

“This included clear commitments that will help create good quality green jobs, deliver fairer working conditions, secure our just transition to net zero and grow international markets that bring new supply chain benefits to all of Scotland.

“Green freeports will be an important vehicle to help deliver these ambitions.”

However, the Greens have split with the SNP over the scheme and said they will have “nothing to do with freeports”.

Maggie Chapman, Green MSP for north-east Scotland, said: “A little greenwashing can’t change the grim reality of ‘freeports’.

“They are yet another way of handing tax breaks and public money to rich companies, and there is little evidence that they will create any economic prosperity.”

Jobs promise

Secretary of State for Levelling Up Michael Gove said freeports will “bring jobs and prosperity to the successful areas”.

He added: “We have worked closely with the Scottish Government to ensure that green freeports support their transition to the net zero economy and help to regenerate local areas.

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove.

“I am excited to see the innovative proposals come forward, and these green freeports built so they can start to deliver for the people of Scotland.”

Applications will be accepted until June 20 and two green freeports will be designated.

Winning bids will be selected jointly by Scottish and UK ministers, with winners announced over the summer.

North and north-east ports putting in bids

A joint bid is expected to be submitted between Aberdeen Harbour, Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire councils, Aberdeen International Airport and Peterhead port.

Bob Sanguinetti, the chief executive of Aberdeen Harbour Board, previously told the Press and Journal the north-east region could fail to “realise its full potential” if its bid is not chosen. 

He argued the port in Aberdeen offers unique knowledge and experience that cannot be matched by other ports when it comes to supporting the offshore sector.

Meanwhile, Opportunity Cromarty Firth (OCF) was launched two years ago with the aim of creating a free trade zone centred on the Cromarty Firth, in a bid to secure a 50-year pipeline of energy projects and sustainable jobs in the Highlands.

Port of Cromarty Firth.

It ias backed by the Port of Cromarty Firth (PoCF), Port of Nigg owner, Global Energy Group, and more than a dozen regional businesses, as well as public sector organisations and academic bodies.

Speaking on behalf of the consortium, PoCF chief executive Bob Buskie, said the port intends to submit a “compelling bid” to create a green freeport in the Highlands.

He added: “OCF is absolutely determined to succeed in this process, which promises to bring significant and lasting benefits to the Scottish economy.”

Global Energy Group chairman, Roy MacGregor, said: “The Cromarty Firth is going to be at the heart of new offshore renewable energy and onshore infrastructure projects for decades to come.

“We believe that green freeport status will be vital in ensuring the Highlands can compete on a level playing field with the rest of the UK to realise the full potential that opportunity represents.”