Scotland’s first two green freeports could be announced next month, with the deadline for applications due on Monday (20 June).
The government has said that the new freeports will attract billions of pounds of investment and create thousands of new jobs. The sites will also offer tax and customs benefits to companies.
The Times reports that the Scottish and UK governments are picking from as many as nine bids.
The North East Scotland Green Freeport bid, supported by a regional alliance around Aberdeen and Peterhead, estimates up to 30,000 jobs could be created, generating a £7.5bn economic boost over the next decade while enabling the area’s transition from oil and gas to renewable energy.
A Highlands bid based around the Port of Cromarty Firth is also in the running, while a Firth of Forth application – including Edinburgh airport and ports in Forth and Grangemouth – is expected to be announced soon.
Eight freeports in England were given the green light in the March 2021 Spring Budget with the aim of boosting economic activity and job creation in the selected regions as part of the government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda, reports the Press and Journal.
Two freeports have so far become operational – Teesside and Thames – with the other six expected to open this year.
The Scottish government has sought to distinguish its freeports from those south of the border, focussing on decarbonising the Scottish economy as part of the transition to net zero.
According to Times, a future freeport could span the Irish sea to link Scotland and Northern Ireland.
UK ministers have signalled that they could look favourably at a plan linking Cairnryan and Northern Ireland, following the collapse of a standalone bid by the Wigtownshire town.
A freeport can have a footprint of up to 28 miles wide, which would cover the distance between the Scottish and Irish mainlands.
Alister Jack, the Scottish secretary, said: “I would encourage Cairnryan not to lose heart. I am sure in a future bidding process, possibly linking Larne and Belfast, there will be another opportunity for the town.”
The minister recently met operators of the Teesside Freeport to hear about the benefits it is creating for businesses and the local community.
Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen hosted Jack on his fact-finding mission to understand how development of the UK’s biggest and first operational freeport can inform Scotland’s plans.
Jack was given a tour of the major clean energy projects and investments taking place within the Teesside Freeport, reports Bdaily.