Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Proposals Sought as Two New Freeports Planned for Scotland Announced

Green Facilities Aim to Assist Levelling Up Process
Shipping News Feature

UK – This week saw the details announced of what was described as a 'landmark deal' between the Scottish and English governments to collaborate on two new Green Freeports north of the border.

With the eight English Freeports now firmly on track these new facilities aim to support the regeneration of communities across Scotland, to bring jobs and prosperity and support UK government work to level-up all four corners of the United Kingdom.

The two governments are looking for potential operators who will ensure these are their principal aims, whilst supporting the transition to a net-zero economy and pledging this will be achieved by 2045. With the bidding process about to open, and closing in the summer, assessments will shortly follow thereafter with the intention of having the facilities in place and up and running by spring 2023. Prime Minister Boris Johnson took a moment away from Ukraine and Partygate to say:

”Freeports will help to accelerate our plan to level up communities across the whole of the United Kingdom. They have the power to be truly transformational by creating jobs and investment opportunities to enable people to reach their potential, and I am delighted that people across Scotland will reap the benefits that will come from having two new Green Freeports.”

The announcement maintains momentum of what was laid out in the government’s Levelling Up White Paper. A statement went on to confirm that the Secretary of State for Levelling Up and Secretary of State for Wales have also discussed this issue with counterparts in the Welsh Government, and said good progress is being made towards an agreement that would see a new Freeport delivered in Wales as part of a shared endeavour between the UK and Welsh Governments. Secretary of State Michael Gove observed:

“This is a truly exciting moment for Scotland, and I am delighted we will be working together with the Scottish government to set up two new Green Freeports. Green Freeports help inject billions into the local economy, while levelling-up by creating jobs for local people, and opportunities for people all over the UK to flourish. By collaborating using opportunities like Green Freeports we can work to level-up the whole of the UK and bring benefits and opportunities to communities that need it most.”

Officials from the UK and Scottish governments will jointly assess the prospective bids to ensure they meet their shared goals, and ministers will have an equal say on the final selection of the locations. Any sea, air or rail port can apply as part of a consortium with other businesses, the council, and other relevant public bodies. However, any consortium wishing to bid to establish a Green Freeport must guarantee that local communities will benefit from it, as well as delivering on ambitious targets for Net Zero. Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy, Kate Forbes commented:

”I am pleased we have been able to reach an agreement on a joint approach that recognises the distinct needs of Scotland and enshrines the Scottish Government’s commitment to achieving net-zero and embedding fair work practices through public investment. Scotland has a rich history of innovative manufacturers and so as we look to grasp the many opportunities of achieving net-zero, the establishment of Green Freeports will help us create new green jobs, deliver a just transition and support our economic transformation.”

It took no time at all before a response came from the industry, with unsurprisingly Forth Ports being in the vanguard, given that it owns and operates seven ports on Scotland’s East coast, and the Port of Tilbury, which is part of the recently-announced Thames Freeport . Stuart Wallace, Chief Operating Officer at Forth Ports, said:

“We welcome the announcement by the UK and Scottish governments of the forthcoming bid process for two Green Freeports in Scotland and confirm that we plan to participate in this process. A Firth of Forth Green Freeport will catalyse the decarbonisation of Scotland’s major industrial cluster, creating 50,000 new, high-quality jobs in renewable energy, manufacturing, sustainable fuels and construction.

“Building on our first-hand experience of Freeports, we plan to create an ambitious set of programmes to harness the regeneration benefits of this economic policy. The legacy of our Green Freeport will be the creation of large-scale green manufacturing industries with significant export potential and a sustainable fuel cluster, alongside major upgrades to infrastructure and skills development among young adults to ensure a Team Scotland approach as the UK transitions to a decarbonised future.”

One person seemed even keener than Forth to talk up the possible opportunities, with a statement from the office of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak saying that, based on the outlined business case of Freeports, the Treasury expects the existing confirmed Freeports across the UK will add £23.9 billion in additional gross value added and bring forwards £25.3 billion in private investment.

No projection for the two new Scottish Freeports was made as yet for obvious reasons, but the Chancellor added:

“It’s fantastic that there will soon be two new Freeports in Scotland, these sites will boost innovation and trade, create new jobs, and level up communities as we deliver lasting prosperity across the UK.”

Photo: CGI images of the planned Port of Leith Renewables Hub, which was announced last year. Courtesy of Forth Ports.