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Highland Green Freeport bid gets major boost as former SSE Renewables boss becomes the chairman of Opportunity Cromarty Firth which is spearheading the bid for a free trade zone in the north

By Scott Maclennan

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Opportunity Cromarty Firth chairman Jim Smith
Opportunity Cromarty Firth chairman Jim Smith

Opportunity Cromarty Firth bid for Green Freeport status has been given a significant boost with the appointment of former SSE Renewables managing director Jim Smith as chairman.

The announcement comes ahead of a crunch decision to be taken jointly by the UK and Scottish governments on which of the five bids will get Green Freeport status.

He will be the first person to take the position at the consortium, which includes three Highland ports and Inverness Airport, as well as private and public sector organisations and academic bodies.

Mr Smith held a number of senior management positions at SSE during a career spanning more than 30 years with the Perth-based energy giant.

He headed SSE Renewables from its creation in 2018 until his retirement in April this year. The subsidiary is currently leading construction of more wind energy than any other company in the world,

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Mr Smith said: “This is an exciting time to be joining Opportunity Cromarty Firth and I am looking forward to working with all the partners that have united behind this important bid.

“The Highlands are going to be at the heart of rapid development of the UK’s offshore wind industry for decades to come and whether the full benefits of that once-in-a-generation opportunity are realised locally and nationally will be determined by the Green Freeport decision.

“The area is already in pole position in the sector and is the only Scottish location with the land space, facilities and experienced supply chain needed to deliver floating wind at the scale and speed to meet current targets and compete with established facilities abroad.”

The OCF consortium, launched in 2020, includes the ports of Cromarty Firth, Nigg and Inverness, as well as the Highlands’ main air terminal and Inverness Airport Business Park.

It is backed by Inverness Chamber of Commerce and more than a dozen businesses, along with public sector organisations including Highland Council and academic bodies like the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI).

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Speaking on behalf of the consortium, Port of Cromarty Firth chief executive, Bob Buskie, said: “Jim brings an absolute wealth of energy industry expertise, and experience to Opportunity Cromarty Firth and we are delighted to welcome him to the consortium as chair.

“The port facilities at Invergordon and Nigg on the Cromarty Firth, with the local supply chain, have already supported more offshore wind projects than any other Scottish ports. In his previous role, Jim was responsible for two of those major projects and knows exactly the capability, capacity and potential the firth can offer this important and rapidly expanding industry.”

OCF submitted its bid for a Green Freeport centred on Inverness and the Cromarty Firth to the Scottish and UK governments last month.

The consortium believes the establishing a Green Freeport would be transformational for the viability of projects the renewables industry needs to deliver and would be pivotal in attracting more than £2.5billion of private sector investment and the creation of 25,000 jobs.

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