Our initial socio-economic impact analysis suggested that the region could expect 15,000 new jobs and around £2.5bn in inward investment from Green Freeport status over the coming years. This could reverse generations of depopulation and reinvigorate our region, through providing exciting, green careers for our working age population and for youngsters who will start their first jobs in the next 10-20 years.
We have already seen an increase in enquiries from companies wanting to establish facilities in our region; mainly those based abroad who want to service the renewables sector. This is new activity to Scotland and some is new activity to the UK. We have also seen local companies planning expansions and investments based on the announcement. One thing the consortium was very focused on was delivering new jobs and growth wherever possible, rather than simply moving or displacing activity from elsewhere in Scotland.
Green Freeport status has already put the Highlands on the map. We beat very strong competition from Glasgow and Aberdeen and the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, announced the award himself. This was on his first official visit to Scotland, when he flew into Inverness and came to visit Port of Cromarty Firth’s facilities in Invergordon. Many people in positions of power across our country didn’t know where Inverness and the Cromarty Firth was when we started this process. Many are now visiting the area, as we move into the set up phase of the Freeport.
As a renewables hub Inverness and the Cromarty Firth will play a key role in regeneration and green job creation. We will be at the centre of delivering net zero for our country, through the support of the offshore wind and green hydrogen sectors. Encouraging innovation and creating an environment to attract new business.
There will be a “ripple effect” of indirect jobs provided by small start-up companies to supply and service all that is happening. People developing technology and expertise will, in the medium and longer term, be able to export these products and skills to help other countries decarbonise.
It really is an exciting time to be in the Highlands!