The Prime Minister Rishi Sunak arrived in Inverness to announce that the UK Government had worked with the Scottish Government on two new freeports for Scotland. One was to be on the Forth, and the other was Cromarty Firth, just North of the Black Isle.
As a result of this announcement, a zone will be created around the Firth that will have different operational, regulatory, and customs rules. It'll be easier to trade and grow businesses. Workers rights will be protected.
There are only 10 such zones across the whole UK, so having such a revolutionary policy implemented in the Highlands will bring jobs and investment far beyond the Firth, to the wider Inverness area.
As part of Cromarty Firth's bid to host a freeport, much was made of Hydrogen and how we can use this sustainable form of energy to power the future. The Highlands will now be a centre of Hydrogen generation, production, and research. Hydrogen energy can be used to fuel the Whisky industry in the Highlands and Moray, it is increasingly used to fuel buses in cities like Aberdeen and Edinburgh, and there is huge potential for the gas in large scale energy generation, and even fuel for cars and smaller vehicles.
Highlands and Islands region MSP Ed Mountain said:
“I’m delighted that Opportunity Cromarty Firth have been successful in their bid. I was more than happy to support them and champion their cause with the Scottish and UK Governments.
“I believe the creation of a free trade zone in the Cromarty Firth will be truly transformational. It will enable the Highlands to attract more investment and create high-skilled local jobs. This port of opportunities is exactly what we need during these challenging times.
“Now we need to ensure that this new green freeport delivers all the benefits that it offers to the Highlands and I will do all I can to help this happen. Well done to all those who supported this bid.”
Cllr Helen Crawford, leader of the Highland Conservative group, said:
“This is exciting news from the UK and Scottish Governments because it could herald the single biggest economic development in Highland since the oil and gas boom. I grew up in Easter Ross and saw what a huge benefit that brought to our community. I also saw and experienced the subsequent decline as the boom died out.
“We Highlanders have experienced that boom and bust cycle and this time round we need absolutely to harness enduring benefit for our communities.
“So this is a welcome opportunity to focus on quality, permanent jobs based right here in Highland and the cascading positive impact that will have on our retail, hospitality and service sectors.”