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Scottish Conservative party leader and Highlands and Islands MSP Douglas Ross throws his support behind plans for a green freeport in the Cromarty Firth

By Scott Maclennan

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Douglas Ross Scottish Tory Leader and Port of Cromarty FIirth's Joanne Allday. Picture: Callum Mackay.
Douglas Ross Scottish Tory Leader and Port of Cromarty FIirth's Joanne Allday. Picture: Callum Mackay.

TRANSFORMATIVE plans to create a green freeport in Easter Ross have received a boost after Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross threw his backing behind the project – just days after a cross-party group of MPs and MSPs issued a joint letter confirming their support.

It is the latest major endorsement for the bid by Opportunity Cromarty Firth (OCF) after energy giants Shell, Orsted, SSE Renewables and Scottish Power Renewables and others did the same.

The ambition by the OCF consortium is to establish a green freeport on the Cromarty Firth, including a hub for hydrogen energy.

At stake is investment and revenues from offshore wind just off the coast worth an estimated £26-£30 billion by the 2030s as well as 15,000 jobs locally and 10,000 elsewhere in Scotland.

After a visit to the Port of Cromarty Firth Mr Ross argued that the bid “has everything going for it” and “ticks all the boxes” when it comes to net zero ambitions, Levelling Up and having a transformative impact locally.

“The thing to do is be unashamedly really positive about what is on offer here, what can be delivered here, how good the bid is,” he said. “We have five very competitive bits from across Scotland and I think that’s really good.

“But when you both see physically on the tour around just how impressive the site is here and how that would build into the overall free port bid it has everything going for it.

“And something that I don’t think gets enough recognition but certainly when I met with members of the bid down in Westminster recently was how this can not only be delivering on the freeport agenda that the government promised but also the Levelling Up agenda.

“This is an area that would see massive investment both financially but with people coming to the area and the jobs that could be created here in the Highland islands with people moving here, the wider benefits across the community are huge, which is why I think, yes, it ticks all of the boxes but even more if look at the wider implications as well.”

On top of that, Mr Ross believes the location could not be improved when it comes to working on offshore wind farms, saying: “We are ideally placed here to benefit from that both in terms of the size of the infrastructure here but what can be done in terms of manufacturing and then moving the wind farms and the wind turbines offshore.

Related news – Renewables industry tells the UK and Scottish governments that the Cromarty Firth is the 'only' place for a green freeport

“We’re speaking a lot about the race to net zero and what we need to do in terms of building more energy resources from renewables and again, we’re ideally situated here.

“Also, I’m a member of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee that’s looking into hydrogen, an area I hadn’t really focused on much before but there’s great opportunities here with green hydrogen going forward.

“So, again, another area that I think hasn’t had enough coverage so far that could have massive benefits both for the port here but Scotland and our net zero targets going forward.”

The letter from industry also hit home with him, as he says: “First of all – these letters don’t happen very often. You don’t get competitors coming together in this way from across the sector all jointly signing up to a letter that is so positive about what could be achieved here.

“They can see the benefits of this bid. That’s why they’re involved in it and that’s why they’re urging both the Scottish and UK governments to back it. So this is almost unique, I think, in my time, in politics, to see such a compelling case made by industry for an individual bid like this.”

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