Edinburgh Green Freeport: Business leaders back Firth of Forth Green Freeport bid

Business leaders have given their backing to the bid for a Green Freeport on the Firth of Forth, which claims it could generate 50,000 new green jobs and unlock £6 billion of investment.

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The bid, centred on Leith, Grangemouth and Rosyth, identifies specific sites where businesses would enjoy tax and customs incentives and aims to "re-industrialise" Scotland by acting as a catalyst for new green technologies and renewable energy manufacturing.

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Now the Edinburgh, Fife and Forth Valley chambers of commerce, which represent nearly 1,500 international and Scottish businesses, have declared their support for the bid in joint letters sent to the UK and Scottish governments.

The leaders of the three chambers described the bid as Scotland’s best opportunity to deliver a just transition to net zero, attract inward investment and build significant international trade and export capability.

Scotland is due to have two designated Green Freeports and there are five bids under consideration – the Firth of Forth bid; a Clyde proposal including Glasgow; another for the north-east including Aberdeen and Peterhead; a Highlands bid around the Cromarty Firth; and Orkney.

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It is understood each will be scored on high-quality employment, plans to attract companies, a move towards net-zero emissions by 2045 and how quickly the sites can be up and running. An announcement is expected imminently.

And there is speculation that the winning sites could be “rebadged” and “beefed up” as the first of the new investment zones planned by prime minister Liz Truss.

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The new outer berth at Leith docks .

The Forth Green Freeport bid has been put forward by a consortium of private and public organisations led by Forth Ports and including Babcock, Edinburgh Airport, Ineos, Scarborough Muir Group, and Edinburgh, Fife and Falkirk councils.

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Liz McAreavey, chief executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, said: “Delivering a just transition for Scotland’s industrial heartland needs to be carefully planned to achieve the 2045 net zero target without damaging the economy.

"The area around the Forth Green Freeport generates 40 per cent of Scotland’s industrial emissions and handles half of the nation’s economic output. A green freeport programme without the Forth at its heart would substantially limit Scotland’s economic potential and would only serve as a boost for our competitors across northern Europe.

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"The business community is already responding to the package of tax and customs incentives, with a spike in enquiries about how established companies and start-ups can use them, which is great for green growth, innovation and trade.”

Grangemouth would see an expanded container terminal and freight rail terminal.
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Alan Mitchell, chief executive of Fife Chamber of Commerce, said by 2030 there was the potential for wind farms to create up to £30 billion in additional investment and revenue from the North Sea.

"The Forth Green Freeport will dramatically drive up UK-produced manufactured content by enhancing strategic sites along the Forth Estuary to ensure that the skills base and innovation assets anchor as many as possible of the 25,000 new offshore wind jobs locally.”

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And Lynn Blaikie, president of Forth Valley Chamber of Commerce, added: “The Forth Green Freeport is different from other bidders in terms of scale, added value and community engagement. For instance, the new technology-backed skills development centres will address areas of acute deprivation within our communities by extending opportunities in a form that young adults can relate to. This is vital to realise the green energy, logistics and fuels vision for Grangemouth.”

What is a Green Freeport?

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Freeports are economic zones where tax and customs rules are relaxed or do not apply. The idea is that businesses will be attracted to set up in these areas, boosting economic activity and creating jobs.

They were introduced by the Conservative government after the 2019 general election and there are now eight south of the border – East Midlands Airport; Felixstowe and Harwich; Humber Region; Liverpool City Region; Plymouth and South Devon; Solent; Teesside; and Thames.

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The Scottish Government was sceptical about the policy, voicing concern about low wages, deregulation, the risk of criminality, tax evasion and reductions in workers’ rights. It produced its own version of the idea, called Greenports, which added requirements for companies to help deliver net-zero emissions and adhere to fair work principles.

Agreement was reached between the two governments that in Scotland they would jointly promote Green Freeports, designed to encourage regeneration, create high-quality jobs, promote decarbonisation and a just transition to a net zero economy, establish hubs for global trade and investment and foster an innovative environment.

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The benefits for companies setting up in Scotland’s two Green Freeports will include no stamp duty, no National Insurance, accelerated capital allowances and five years of paying no business rates.

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