Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport (ICFGF) has forecast wide ranging incentives and multi-generational benefits offered by the initiative will lead to the creation of more than 10,000 new jobs in the Highlands and a further 6,000 across the UK.
The organisation has also predicted over £3billion of fresh investment will be attracted as Green Freeport status helps realise the area’s potential to become the largest European hub for the development of the offshore wind industry and associated renewable energy technologies.
ICFGF Chief Executive, Calum MacPherson, said the figures demonstrated the “huge opportunity” the initiative presented to address the challenge of working age depopulation in the Highlands and to accelerate economic growth and innovation, as well as growing and decarbonising the offshore energy industry in the UK.
ICFGF was established as a company earlier this year, following the announcement by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in January that Inverness and the Cromarty Firth would be the location of one of two Green Freeports in Scotland.
The company’s Outline Business Case for the development of the Green Freeport is due to be submitted to the Scottish and UK governments this week.
The document sets out details of locations totalling around 550 hectares and owned by 12 landowners, which would become “tax sites,” where preferential tax and customs rules apply. Mr MacPherson said that, in total, the land, which include areas on the shores of the Cromarty Firth, in the Highland capital and at Ardersier, amounted to the “largest green energy development site in the UK.”
Job creation figures were calculated by independent specialists, who interviewed landowners and potential investors for a detailed economic impact study, which forms a key part of the Outline Business Case.
They forecast that, if tax site designation is granted for the minimum five years available, their development will lead to the creation of 10,250 new jobs in the Highlands over the next 25 years and a total of 16,500 across the UK.
Operational roles on the tax sites, construction employment and indirect supply chain impacts are included in the figures.
ICFGF believes that, with broader initiatives in the area connected with the growth of green energy, the levels of job creation could be even higher.
Mr MacPherson said: “Following the ScotWind leasing round announcement last year, 20 offshore wind developments, representing a combined investment of almost £30bn, are currently being
planned, with the majority of them close to our region. Green Freeport status for the area, which has been supported from the outset by the green energy industry, presents us with the ability to maximise the lasting benefits to the Highlands, Scotland and the UK from that unprecedented opportunity.
“The latest Census figures once again underline the alarming decline in the working age population of the Highlands. We now have a huge opportunity through the Green Freeport initiative to address that issue, creating not just jobs, but sustainable careers that will benefit the area for many years to come.
“Thousands of hours of work from our consortium partners have gone into creating our Outline Business Case and I am delighted that, together, we have been able to produce what I am confident is an extremely strong proposition.
“Since the award of Green Freeport status, the ICFGF consortium has grown and the joint effort to get us to this vital stage has demonstrated unprecedented levels of co-operation among those involved from the private and public sectors and academia. We look forward to continuing to work closely with the Scottish and UK governments as we further develop this transformational initiative.”
The Outline Business Case was today (Tuesday Oct 3) considered at a meeting of The Highland Council, which has the role of “accountable body” for the public funding aspect of ICFGF.
The Council has identified the Green Freeport project as a pillar of its planning and economic development strategy over the past three years due to the potential benefits it will bring.
Following the special meeting of the Highland Council, Leader of the Council Raymond Bremner said: “The Green Freeport will be transformational for the Highland region. The business case demonstrates the enormous potential for economic growth and job creation which can reverse population decline in the area.
“This development signals a real beacon of hope and opportunity for our young people to stay, to live and work in the Highlands, with the prospect of a range of careers and jobs, never before seen to this extent in our lifetimes.
“The Highlands are set to become a global centre for renewable energy and with that, an ethical economic prosperity which will secure a brighter, safer and greener future for generations to come.”
The Outline Business Case also sets out ICFGF’s proposals to address training and workforce requirements and drive innovation through its PowerHouse applied research centre. The PowerHouse, which is supported by a number of international offshore wind developers, was established to support ICFGF in becoming a global centre of excellence in offshore renewables and green hydrogen.
ICFGF is backed by the Port of Cromarty Firth, Global Energy Group, Port of Inverness and Ardersier Port owners, Haventus, alongside The Highland Council, UHI and more than 30 regional, national and international businesses, public sector organisations and academic bodies.