Up to 30,000 high-quality jobs will be created in the North East of Scotland under ground-breaking plans to transform the region into the "net zero capital of Europe".
A major regional alliance which includes Peterhead Port Authority, Port of Aberdeen, Aberdeen International Airport and Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire councils today announced its formal bid for Green Freeport status which will boost GVA by £7.5 billion over the next decade and usher in a new era of investment, innovation, regional regeneration and opportunities for those that need them most.
The region is focused on becoming the global epicentre of the energy transition to lead the world in creating carbon-free energy and the technology needed to achieve net zero.
The announcement follows a recent visit to Aberdeen by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon during which she highlighted the Scottish Government’s commitment to reposition the region as the "net zero capital of Europe and Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s pledge to boost Scotland’s transformation as a "green energy hub" and deliver the UK Government’s commitments on net zero.
North East Scotland Green Freeport will make these commitments a reality. It will bring large-scale, advanced manufacturing to Aberdeen to maximise economic benefit from Scotland’s rapidly-growing offshore wind and hydrogen sectors and accelerate pioneering carbon capture projects on the Buchan coast. The partners believe that the fusion of Green Freeport status with the North East’s world-leading energy expertise will lead the UK’s decarbonisation drive and just transition to a net zero economy.
It will also create a regional customs hub for premium and globally recognised Scottish food and drink exports, building direct links to key markets for products such as Scotch whisky, seafood and meat produce.
Senior representatives of the collaborative consortium were joined by North East business leaders at the new Aberdeen South Harbour, which will play a key role in unlocking the massive offshore wind opportunity, to issue a direct call to both the Scottish and UK governments to back the region’s bid.
North East Scotland Green Freeport will comprise a special economic zone within which a number of levers and tax incentives will be available to attract new inward investment and support expansion of existing businesses to invest, innovate and develop the skills needed to deliver a wide range of pioneering new projects. The ambitious proposals will secure vital trade and support the acceleration of innovation, diversification and decarbonisation of the region’s key sectors:
• Stimulating local and wider regeneration, amplifying the value of the Green Freeport investment to level up deprived communities and enable and accelerate a just transition.
• Delivering a globally recognised integrated energy cluster focussed on the delivery of net zero contributing significantly to national energy and economic security.
• Leveraging private sector investment to attract new manufacturing and subsea engineering companies which will maximise the significant opportunities for the regional and Scottish supply chain provided by ScotWind and INTOG licensing.
• Accelerating the delivery of Acorn, Scotland’s only carbon capture cluster, and establishing Europe’s largest direct air capture facility on the Buchan coast.
• Accelerating the impacts of a new Green Hydrogen Production and Distribution Hub to produce the renewable gas for regional and national markets, and ultimately export.
• Capitalising on the brand new £400million Aberdeen South Harbour expansion which provides 24 hour non tidal access and deep-water facilities on the east coast.
• Harnessing the region’s existing expertise in freight logistics across global supply chains and become a UK test-bed for the development of innovative solutions for future trade systems, including the use of drone technology across ports and customs infrastructure.
• Stimulating investment in innovation and automation to transform our crucial seafood sector, supporting to increase world class food and drink exports to the world.
Simon Brebner, Chief Executive of Peterhead Port Authority, said: “A successful bid will have a transformative effect on the Peterhead area, accelerating the push towards net zero through carbon capture and storage and creating thousands of jobs as well as dovetailing with vital decarbonisation work across the region.
“For Scotland and the UK to reach its climate goals, it needs the energy sector in the North East of Scotland to be at the vanguard of the transition. The levers and incentives offered through the Green Freeport will provide certainty to investors that in turn will allow us to transition to innovative renewables solutions.”
Bob Sanguinetti, Chief Executive of Port of Aberdeen, said: “In this climate emergency, the UK needs a region with a proven track record of delivering innovative energy solutions and economic opportunities at pace. The fusion of Green Freeport status with a region internationally renowned for its resilience, adaptability and pioneering entrepreneurial spirit would deliver a prosperous new chapter in our industrial story. One which, quite literally, could help change the world.
“So, let's back North East Scotland Green Freeport. Let's accelerate Scotland and the UK’s journey to net zero. Let's anchor the world's leading energy companies and talent right here for another 50 years.”
Jon Matthews, Group Head of Capital and Planning at Aberdeen International Airport, said: “Aberdeen International Airport is delighted to be a key partner for North East Scotland Green Freeport bid. Achieving green freeport status will significantly help to transform the region, specifically in delivering new world class renewable energy opportunities and help the country move towards net zero.
“There are exciting opportunities to help decarbonise the aviation industry through sustainable aviation fuel if a Green Freeport status was secured. This is very much aligned with our own ambitious net zero plans for the airport, which critically require the green freeport fiscal and operational levers to deliver.”
Steve Murphy, Chief Operating Officer, Storegga, said: “The North East Scotland Green Freeport bid is an important element of the collective Scottish and UK push to reach net zero, connecting Acorn’s CO2 capture and permanent storage to emitters in central Scotland, English Freeports such as Thames and Solent, as well as international customers.
"It is vital we push hard to get important carbon reduction developments like Acorn online as swiftly as possible. A Green Freeport for North East Scotland will accelerate and amplify the Scottish Cluster, including Europe’s first at scale direct air capture plant and CO2 import facilities at Peterhead Port.”
Martin Gilbert, Co-founder and CEO (retired) of Aberdeen Asset Management, and chairman of AssetCo, Revolut, Net Zero Technology Centre and Scottish Golf, gave his vociferous backing for the bid:
"The North East Scotland Green Freeport is a fantastic opportunity to lead the world in developing new technology and manufacturing that will drive not only energy security but make huge strides for Scotland, the UK and the wider world on the path towards a carbon net zero future.
"The ingenuity, passion and impressive skill set this region has in spades - coupled with the massive inward investment and ground-breaking innovation the Green Freeport will bring - will lead the world towards a new energy future while creating tens of thousands of jobs.
"The bid will also offer critical support to our food and fishing communities as they modernise and decarbonise and reach new markets across the globe.
“But this bid is also about helping local communities, not just via the jobs and investment, but by the opportunity to enjoy spin-offs like drone technology brought to our doors and 5G that can be shared by everyone.
"This is an incredible opportunity for the people of this region to lead the world once more and I'm proud to back this the North East Scotland Green Freeport bid.”