North Politicians Unite in Cross-Party Support
For Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport Bid

The UK government has been urged to choose Inverness and the Cromarty Firth as the location for a Green Freeport by a cross-party group of Highland politicians.

Three MPs and five MSPs signed a letter which was submitted with the bid telling ministers that winning the status would provide the opportunity for “once-in-a-lifetime transformational change” for the region.

And the group of SNP, Liberal Democrat, Conservative and Labour representatives highlighted the strengths of the Inverness and Cromarty Firth bid, including the potential to attract £20-30billion investment to the area, echoing support voiced by major international offshore energy developers and others. 

The letter, to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, was signed by MPs Ian Blackford, Drew Hendry and Jamie Stone, along with MSPs Edward Mountain, Jamie Halcro Johnston, Donald Cameron, Rhoda Grant and Maree Todd. In it, they said:

The establishment of a Green Freeport in the Highlands would provide the opportunity for once-in-a-lifetime transformational change. We are excited at the prospect.

The Highland region has particular challenges, lower-than-average incomes and productivity, and multi-generational population decline. It desperately needs new job opportunities to reverse these present trends. We believe this is possible but we need help.

We have £20-30bn investment opportunities on our doorstep and Green Freeport status, and its accompanying benefits, is exactly the vehicle we need to ensure they can be realised.

The locations of two new Green Freeports in Scotland are expected to be announced by the UK and Scottish governments later this summer.  A bid by the Opportunity Cromarty Firth (OCF) consortium submitted last month is competing against four others, from the north-east, the central belt and Orkney.

Setting out the arguments in favour of Inverness and the Cromarty Firth, the north politicians said:

The area is uniquely placed to benefit the whole of the UK through energy security, trade and investment, lower cost electricity and speeding progress towards net-zero.

It can create tens of thousands of high-quality fair, green jobs, thus meeting the Scottish and UK governments’ regeneration, trade and investment and net-zero objectives.

This bid not only delivers on the Government’s Green Freeport objectives, but also the levelling up agenda; spreading opportunity more equally across Scotland.

It has the land space, some of the deepest waters and quaysides in the UK, sheltered anchorage locations and a cluster of best-in-class companies working together to compete with leading offshore energy port hubs across Europe.

It’s the only location in Scotland with the port infrastructure and experienced supply chain in place to deliver UK energy security through offshore wind, floating wind, pumped hydro storage, green hydrogen and critical manufacturing for the nuclear sector.”

The politicians’ message was reinforced by Jamie Stone, Rhoda Grant, Maree Todd and Highland Council leader, Raymond Bremner at a press conference in Inverness today (Monday 25th July).

Left to right: Raymond Bremner, Maree Todd, Rhoda Grant & Jamie Stone
Location: Town House, Inverness │ Picture credit: Ewen Weatherspoon

We very much welcome this strong show of cross-party support from our elected representatives from across the Highlands for what we are confident is a compelling bid for Green Freeport status for Inverness and the Cromarty Firth.

It echoes what industry and others have said, pointing out that the area is already in pole position in the development of offshore wind and other technologies needed to deliver UK energy security and lower cost electricity.

We also wholeheartedly agree that the Highland economy urgently needs the transformational opportunity that Green Freeport status can bring.

Speaking on behalf of OCF, Port of Cromarty Firth Chief Executive, Bob Buskie

Holtec International Signs Landmark MOU with Global Energy Group & Joins Green Freeport Bid

Holtec International Signs Landmark MOU

Holtec International, a United States-based turnkey supplier of equipment and services for the nuclear, solar, geothermal and fossil power sectors has signed a landmark Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Global Energy Group (GEG).

The terms of the MOU will see GEG join Holtec International in a UK team in the nuclear sector as a specialist manufacturing and engineering partner for modular components for next generation Small Modular Reactors (SMR) and other mission critical components for the industry.

Talking about the agreement, Gareth Thomas, Director, Holtec Britain Ltd, said:

“This MOU is a key part of Holtec Britain’s strategy to take a prominent position within the UK in providing Holtec’s Small Modular Reactor SMR-160 technology and fabrication to support the government’s energy security strategy. Holtec are currently developing a world class supply chain of UK companies – including Global Energy Group – to deliver on SMR-160 fabrication capable of not only delivering in the UK but also providing export opportunity to the international market.

“The Holtec SMR-160 design is modular in construction and the prospect of a Green Freeport in the Cromarty Firth affords us the opportunity to ship in raw materials to be fabricated and modules/equipment constructed before onward transit either within the UK or abroad. In the fabrication phase, set to begin as early as 2026, the engineering package will be worth 10s or even 100s of millions of pounds per SMR project to the supply chain located within the catchment area of the port.”

The MoU is being hailed as a huge opportunity for the Highland region and Global Energy, which has wide-ranging experience in defence nuclear, decommissioning and manufacture. Steve Chisholm, Director of Operations and Innovation at Global Energy Group, commented:

“We are delighted to sign this landmark MOU with Holtec International. Not only do Global Energy Group have unrivalled deep-water facilities at the Port of Nigg where SMR components can be manufactured and shipped to anywhere in the world, we also have a highly skilled workforce developing and deploying new processes, such as electron beam welding, which has huge potential for nuclear. This MOU opens up a great opportunity to develop new processes and disruptive technologies for the cost-effective manufacture of SMRs, which have huge export potential.”

“Active in the nuclear sector since 2010, Global Energy is one of the very few accredited suppliers in the UK. Having manufactured radioactive waste storage vessels for Sellafield and mission-critical components for the Hinkley Point C cooling system at the Port of Nigg, producing components for SMRs – which are being viewed as a key part of the net-zero landscape – is a great opportunity for us as an organisation and for the wider Highland economy.”

Holtec International is currently supported by the US Government to develop and validate a SMR design for the US. It is in discussions with the UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) about four possible UK sites for SMR-160s and has formed a UK team to deliver the projects, with Global Energy Group and other UK companies.

Holtec Joins Opportunity Cromarty Firth Green Freeport Bid

Following on from the inking of the MOU, Holtec Britain has joined Global Energy in the Opportunity Cromarty Firth (OCF) consortium bidding to be granted Green Freeport status. OCF believes that Green Freeport status for the Cromarty Firth would ‘revolutionise’ the Highland and Scottish economy leading to the creation of tens of thousands of jobs.

Speaking about the newest member of the OCF consortium, Steve Chisholm of Global Energy Group, said:

“We think Holtec Britain joining the OCF consortium is a huge boost for the bid. Adding nuclear sector capability to renewables and hydrogen makes the Cromarty Firth – where Holtec are exploring options for a permanent base with local government agencies – a unique proposition.”

“There’s a real opportunity to make the Highlands a centre of excellence for nuclear power technology and manufacture. Supporting that is the huge pool of experienced talent in the Highland & Islands who worked at Dounreay and HMC Vulcan that can be tapped into.”

Holtec’s Gareth Thomas, commented:

“Holtec have undertaken diligence to support our choice of where to locate and whom to engage with to support our SMR-160 program. We have looked at the fantastic opportunities that would be afforded to us by being part of this Green Freeport. The existing experienced nuclear workforce, the excellence of manufacturing companies and the excellent academic links within the University of Highlands and Islands (UHI) are all reason why Holtec are supportive of this bid and would wish to be a part of a successful Green Freeport.”

“A successful Freeport bid would deliver the biggest economic change to the Highlands and Islands since records began. It would be critical for retaining a skilled workforce, providing quality sustainable jobs and growing not just the Highland economy but that of Scotland and the wider UK.”

Jamie Stone MP said:

“The Highlands boast a record of excellence in nuclear engineering, with many fantastically skilled scientists, engineers and tradespeople across the region. The expansion of Opportunity Cromarty Firth’s Green Freeport bid to include Holtec is therefore very welcome indeed.”

“It’s quite simple – the success of this bid would be transformative for the Highlands, with investment into permanent infrastructure and jobs that we have not seen in my lifetime. I strongly urge the Scottish and UK governments to agree to grant Green Freeport status to the Cromarty Firth.”

Former SSE Renewables Managing Director to Become Chair of Green Freeport Bid Consortium

Former SSE Renewables managing director Jim Smith has agreed to take on the role of chair of Opportunity Cromarty Firth (OCF), the consortium leading the bid for Green Freeport status for the Inverness and Cromarty Firth area.

He will be the first person to take the position at the partnership, which includes three Highland ports and Inverness Airport, as well as private and public sector organisations and academic bodies.

Mr Smith held a number of senior management positions at SSE during a career spanning more than 30 years with the Perth-based energy giant.  

He headed SSE Renewables, which is currently leading construction of more wind energy than any other company in the world, from its creation, in 2018, until his retirement in April this year.

“This is an exciting time to be joining Opportunity Cromarty Firth and I am looking forward to working with all the partners that have united behind this important bid.”

“The Highlands are going to be at the heart of rapid development of the UK’s offshore wind industry for decades to come and whether the full benefits of that once-in-a-generation opportunity are realised locally and nationally will be determined by the Green Freeport decision.”

“The area is already in pole position in the sector and is the only Scottish location with the land space, facilities and experienced supply chain needed to deliver floating wind at the scale and speed to meet current targets and compete with established facilities abroad.”

Jim Smith