Edinburgh Firth of Forth confirmed as one of Scotland's new Green Freeports
The Firth of Forth has been confirmed today (January 13) as the location for one of Scotland’s two new Green Freeports along with Inverness and the Cromarty Firth.
The Forth bid – centred on Leith, Grangemouth and Rosyth – claimed it could generate up to 50,000 new green jobs and act as a catalyst for new green technologies and renewable energy manufacturing and unlock £6 billion of private and public investment.
The special zone, which offers tax breaks and other incentives to the companies who set up within it, will involve strategically sites spanning 550 hectares in Leith, Grangemouth, Rosyth, Burntisland and Edinburgh Airport. he bid’s backers said it would increase trade through Scotland’s sea and air gateways and support the growth of trading businesses across the Firth of Forth and at sites spread north, south and west of the estuary.
Making the announcement, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “In extending the benefits of freeports to Scotland, we are unleashing the potential of the Firth of Forth and Inverness and Cromarty Firth – backing the delivery of thousands of high-quality green jobs for future generations, as we continue to make gains on our commitments to transition to net zero.”
Charles Hammond, chief executive of Forth Ports, which led the consortium behind the bid, said the announcement was “great news for Scotland, for new green jobs and for the country’s drive to net zero”. He said: “Our bid will re-industrialise the nation and create large-scale economic development. Our green freeport will accelerate investment and generate 50,000 new green jobs by acting as a catalyst for new technologies and renewable energy manufacturing. This has the potential to unlock £6 billion of private and public investment for Scotland and create new training facilities, factories, logistics parks, rail, freight and fuel terminals and to enhance our creative industries.
“The benefits of trade will be spread widely into the communities that need it the most, through the establishment of a green growth investment corridor creating tens of thousands of jobs in low carbon logistics, renewable energy, green manufacturing and alternative fuels. These new jobs will not just be in Grangemouth, Leith and Rosyth, but in Glasgow and Edinburgh; the Lothians, Stirling and Falkirk; Dunfermline and Burntisland; and across the UK.”
Critics claim freeports do not boost economic growth because they just attract companies to move from one area to another to take advantage of the tax breaks. And freeports are also alleged to be associated with money laundering, smuggling and organised crime. But supporters insist they have proved successful in other parts of the world and say they can draw in investment from overseas which would otherwise go elsewhere.
The Scottish Government at first resisted plans by the UK Government to extend its Freeport programme to Scotland. Instead the SNP proposed Greenports, which would require businesses to pay the Living Wage and sign up to net-zero commitments, but that was not acceptable to the UK. Agreement was eventually reached on Green Freeports, which tailor the UK Freeport model to Scottish policies and “meet the core requirements of both governments”. However, the SNP’s Green partners remain opposed to the initiative and claim it amounts to “greenwashing”.
The two governments agreed there should be two Green Freeports in Scotland and five bids were submitted – from the Firth of Forth; Cromarty; a Clyde bid, including Glasgow; a North East bid covering Aberdeen and Peterhead; and a bid from Orkney. The announcement had been expected in the summer, but was delayed by the political turmoil at Westminster and the change of prime minister. Then the winners were supposed to be revealed before Christmas but nothing happened. The news that the Forth and Cromarty bids had been successful leaked out earlier this week.
Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “This is a milestone achievement in the process to deliver Green Freeports for Scotland. Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport and Forth Green Freeport will support businesses to create high-quality, well-paid new jobs, promote growth and regeneration, and make a significant contribution to achieving our net zero ambitions. .
“A rigorous joint selection process has been followed. The successful applicants showed a strong determination to embed fair work practices, including payment of the Real Living Wage, and to enshrine net zero initiatives in their work. We look forward to working closely with them to ensure they deliver maximum positive impact and become operational as soon as possible. We will also work with the unsuccessful bidders to consider how they can build on the plans set out in their bids to deliver jobs and growth in their regions outside the Green Freeports programme.
“Scotland has a rich history of innovation, trade and manufacturing and as we look to seize the many opportunities achieving net zero offers, the creation of these internationally competitive clusters of excellence will help us to create new green jobs, deliver a just transition and support our economic transformation.”
‘It’s important this is sustainable change’
UK Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said: “Scotland has areas of outstanding opportunity but there are also places that can benefit from more investment to truly level up communities that have been overlooked. This is a shared challenge faced by us all across the UK, which is why I’m delighted the UK and Scottish governments have collaborated to deliver two Green Freeports in Scotland, which will undoubtedly be transformative for future generations. Inverness and Cromarty Firth and the Firth of Forth are fantastic areas for these new Green Freeports to set up, ensuring the benefits are felt right across Scotland. This will help to create exciting new jobs, boost business and encourage investment in the local areas and beyond.”
Edinburgh council leader Cammy Day said the Green Freeport would be positive for the north of Edinburgh and the area’s economy as a whole. “Our long-term investment in the tram extension to Newhaven is already unlocking this part of the city for long-term development and regeneration. Plus, our £1.3 billion green vision for Granton Waterfront is creating a brand new coastal community, with jobs and thousands of net zero homes.
“By progressing the vision for a Green Freeport at the Port of Leith and a customs site at Edinburgh Airport, we could unlock a whole east-west corridor of net zero economic growth. But it’s important that this is sustainable change and inclusive – we want to see the project provide pathways into work and learning for disadvantaged young people from the area. I’ve made it clear that we need fair work, fair opportunities, the living wage, a unionised workforce and community benefits as central to the delivery of this project going forward and I look forward to working with Forth Ports and the Scottish Government to make this happen.”
Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs welcomed the announcement. He said: “I am delighted that Forth Ports, based at Leith docs, has won Greenport status along the Firth of Forth. Securing Greenport status is something I have been campaigning on for a long time and will bring huge economic, environmental and social benefits to the region. The team at Forth Ports did extremely well with their bid for the Firth of Forth to be one of two locations for a Greenport in Scotland. This is a great example of the UK Government and Scottish Government working together for the betterment of Scotland. The Firth of Forth Greenport area will be key in Scotland’s efforts to become net zero by 2045.”