The creation of a Green Freeport on the Cromarty Firth will turbo-charge the economy.
Delivering 25,000 jobs and £4.8 billion investment, its impact will be felt across the Highlands and far beyond.
As the Prime Minister underlined when he visited Scotland last week, the Inverness and Cromarty Firth Freeport will create massive opportunities for renewable industries.
Led by a consortium focused on achieving net zero by delivering green energy, the tax incentives which come with freeport status will help stimulate economic growth and improve the environment.
I understand the frustration felt in the north-east, some of which has been expressed through the opinion columns of the Press and Journal.
As Scottish Secretary, I’m proud that the UK Government has delivered two Scottish freeports with the creation of a similar zone on the Firth of Forth.
Originally, the vision was for just one freeport north of the border, but I am delighted we have ultimately been able to deliver a second one.
Building on a UK Government investment of £52 million seed capital we have got Scottish ministers on board and together we have created these special economic zones.
As a result, Scotland’s two freeports will bring a total of 75,000 highly skilled jobs and £10.8 billion in private and public investment.
Our decision to establish Scottish freeports attracted five excellent Scottish bids, which in itself was a healthy endorsement of our approach.
Each bid went through a rigorous and stringent process involving the UK and Scottish governments before the victors were announced.
‘Disappointment’ in north-east
As is inevitable in any competitive process, there was disappointment from those who were unsuccessful in the north-east, Glasgow City Region and Orkney, especially given the hard work that went into all five applications.
The beauty of freeports, however, is that the ripples of economic growth will be felt across Scotland.
We are acutely aware of the uniquely talented north-east workforce.
I understand the frustration felt in the north-east, some of which has been expressed through the opinion columns of The Press and Journal.
In that context, I would like to reassure people that the UK Government is right behind the north-east and suggestions to the contrary are wide of the mark.
We are working hard to support its people and the magnificent contribution they make to our energy supplies and economy.
North-east has ‘vital’ role
The UK Government fully recognises the vital role North Sea oil and gas has during these challenging times.
As we transition to net-zero, there remains a great need for a secure domestic energy supply, and the effects of Putin’s abhorrent war on Ukraine on the global gas market has only demonstrated this further.
We are acutely aware of the uniquely talented north-east workforce and Aberdeen’s status as one of the world’s great energy centres.
We also recognise the challenges that communities north of the central belt face.
That’s why the UK Government is investing £27 million in the Aberdeen Energy Transition Zone.
Our £125 million investment in the Aberdeen City Region Deal includes £90 million towards the ground-breaking Net Zero Technology Centre.
Could carbon capture still get green light?
Last week my Scotland Office colleague Malcolm Offord opened the National Subsea Centre, a multi-million-pound renewables research facility linked to the Net Zero Technology Centre.
Other UK Government investment in the area includes £20 million through the Levelling Up Fund to revamp Aberdeen’s city centre.
While the UK Government’s North Sea Transition Deal will deliver up to £16 billion in new energy technologies by 2030.
There’s also been support of over £40m in UK Government funding for the Acorn carbon capture project at the St Fergus Gas Terminal in Peterhead, designed to store industrial emissions in empty gas reservoirs in the North Sea.
Although the Acorn project is a ‘reserve’ project at the minute, there will be further opportunities for it to get the green light when the second phase of the UK Government’s carbon capture and storage scheme is rolled out.
As we move forward the UK Government remains committed to working with the Scottish Government, councils and local organisations to deliver for the north-east.