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SNP Westminster chief Stephen Flynn plays down impact of north-east freeport snub

Aberdeen South MP Stephen Flynn. Image: PA.

SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn says while he is “disappointed” the north-east is expected to lose out on green freeport status, it would have been a “bonus rather than a necessity”.

The Aberdeen South MP reacted after it emerged the joint bid from Aberdeen and Peterhead is expected to miss out on a freeport award.

Rishi Sunak was due to arrive in Scotland on Thursday to meet Nicola Sturgeon as part of a two-day visit, which is understood to tie in with announcing the two winning bids.

On Wednesday, the P&J exclusively revealed Cromarty Firth will be one of the two sites to gain job-creating “freeport” status with tax breaks.

The prime minister is understood to be heading to the Highlands on Friday for his first visit to Scotland since taking office, to make the freeports announcement.

The second award in Scotland is expected to go to Forth Ports, which takes in Rosyth, Burntisland, Grangemouth, Leith and Edinburgh airport.

Mr Flynn said it is “very positive and exciting news” for the Highlands and Forth Ports but added he was “obviously disappointed” the north-east had not been selected.

However, he went on to say freeport status would have been a “bonus rather than a necessity”, as the region remains primed to deliver the renewables transition.


Several other SNP MSPs and MPs expressed their disappointment over the decision, which was made jointly by the Scottish and UK governments following a bidding process.

But they have chosen to direct their ire at the UK Government, arguing it must now deliver on carbon capture funding for the Acorn Project at St Fergus, near Peterhead.

In 2021, Westminster chose to snub proposals for a Scottish carbon capture cluster, led by the Acorn Project.

Earlier this week, UK ministers were accused of putting jobs in the north-east at risk after delays to applying for the cash. 

The decision comes just days after the Scottish Government published its new energy plan to wind down oil and gas drilling.

‘Awful policy decisions’

One north-east business group said the region has been “shafted” by both governments, following a succession of “awful policy decisions”.

Ryan Crighton, policy and marketing director at Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce, argued the region’s “once unshakeable status” as a global energy capital is now “under threat”. 

He has pushed for policy makers to bring forward an additional green freeport award so the north-east can benefit.

Members of the North East Green Freeports Alliance in a meeting at the Port of Aberdeen. Image: Paul Glendell/DC Thomson.

Mr Flynn, whose Aberdeen constituency borders the city’s port, previously said the region’s bid “must be at the forefront” of any decision on investment if the UK was “serious about the challenges of the future in terms of energy security and net zero”.

Speaking on Thursday, he said: “I am obviously disappointed that the north-east bid appears not to have been successful but I firmly regard it as something that would have been a bonus for our region rather than a necessity.

“After all, we remain home to the very people who have the skills and expertise to deliver the renewables transition and, geographically, we remain perfectly placed to capitalise on its benefits with 70% of the most recent offshore wind licensing round sitting within 100 nautical miles of Aberdeen.”

‘Strong case’

Gordon SNP MP Richard Thomson said it would be “disappointing” if the region is not named as one of the successful bids when they are formally announced.

But he added: “The north-east has seized the opportunities offered by the energy sector before without freeport status and, with the right leadership, it will do so again.”

Banffshire and Buchan Coast SNP MSP Karen Adam said the Peterhead and Aberdeen joint bid had made a “strong case” on behalf of the north-east.

She added: “It’s time the UK Government take action and deliver for the north-east of Scotland by delivering on support for the Scottish Cluster if it is the case Peterhead and Aberdeen have missed out on the green freeport bid.”

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Karen Adam. Image: Supplied.

Kevin Stewart, SNP MSP for Aberdeen Central, said: “I’ve been vocal in my support for the North East Green Freeport bid particularly given the role that the north-east will play in our energy transition, but this news should not stand in the way of our ambition to be the net zero capital of Europe.”

Five bids were lodged by groups in Orkney, Aberdeen and Peterhead, Inverness and Cromarty, Forth, and Clyde.

Operators and businesses in a freeport zone can benefit from a package of tax and other incentives, with the capacity to bring jobs and investment.

North-east Conservative politicians were approached for comment on the decision but they, along with some SNP representatives, are waiting for an official announcement.