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The renewables industry warns politicians billions of investment and tens of thousands of jobs will go abroad if the green freeport does not come to Cromarty Firth as an open letter signed by leading companies says the Highlands is the "only" place for a freeport

By Scott Maclennan

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Joanne Allday, the strategic business development manager for Port of Cromarty Firth.
Joanne Allday, the strategic business development manager for Port of Cromarty Firth.

Political decision-makers have been issued a “stark warning” that billions in investment and tens of thousands of jobs could flee abroad if the Cromarty Firth loses out on green freeport status.

The warning came from one of the main movers behind the bid to bring a green freeport to the Highlands, Joanne Allday, the strategic business development manager for Port of Cromarty Firth.

She was citing an open letter from energy giants like Shell, Scottish Power Renewables, Ocean Winds, Orsted, SSE Renewables and others stating that the Cromarty Firth “has the overwhelming endorsement of industry”.

She said: “I think that is what makes this difference. It's not about the Highlands deserving it, it's about industry demanding it. That's why we should be successful. If it doesn't come here, it's going abroad.”

Other than Opportunity Cromarty Firth (OCF), there are four bids for the two green freeports and £52 million seed money: Aberdeen City and Peterhead, Clyde, Firth of Forth and Orkney.

But according to Ms Allday none of them have ever done nor can do what OCF has already done: “It's really important to make the point because this is the bit the politicians do not get and their advisers do not get

“You cannot do this in Aberdeen. You cannot do this in Leith – these are our competitors. There have been three offshore wind farms marshalled out of the Cromarty Firth.

“There have been none marshalled out of Aberdeen, there have been none marshalled out of Leith, there have been none marshalled out of Orkney, and there have been none marshalled out of Clyde. That is all our competitors.

“So it's a really stark warning to the politicians that industry has given you a very clear steer on this – if you want to achieve your local content objectives which are well and truly in both the offshore wind sector deal and the North Sea transition deal – industry has told you where this decision has to go.”

In its letter to the UK and Scottish governments, industry leaders said the Cromarty Firth will be worth between £18–£26 billion by the mid-2030s because it has everything it needs.

“The Cromarty Firth has the overwhelming endorsement of industry, government and in independent studies as the only location in Scotland with the land space, some of the deepest waters and quaysides in the UK, sheltered anchorage locations, and a cluster of best-in-class companies and facilities, combined with the proximity to the wind farm sites that can deliver these ambitions for floating wind at the scale required, compete with established facilities abroad, and create the associated well-paid, sustainable jobs and opportunities for people and businesses across Scotland and the UK.

“This translates into £0.9-1.3 billion per GW of UK manufacturing content that only the Cromarty Firth can deliver (equivalent to £18 to £26 billion by the mid-2030’s). The location also offers the best path to lower costs and thus lower UK fuel bills.”

Ms Allday said that poses an obvious question for politicians: “Are you going to consult industry or are you going to ignore industry? Because they could not have given you a stronger steer.

“The letter specifically says the Cromary Firth is the only location. It cannot be any stronger than that and they all put their names to it and they're the developers of pretty much all the floating wind that is coming in ScotWind and along with the fixed wind developers as well. I think we've got 13 GW of the 14.6 GW of floating.

“And they are members of the consortium, these are not people that are just putting their logo on something and a number of them and not supporting anybody else's bid, a number of them are exclusively supporting OCF so it couldn’t be a stronger message from industry.”

Ultimately, according to Ms Allday, the decision-makers have to understand: “If it doesn't come here, it's going abroad.”

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