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Following today’s (13 January) announcement from the Scottish Government and UK Government that the North East Scotland Green Freeport (NESGF) bid was unsuccessful, the consortium – led by Port of Aberdeen, Peterhead Port Authority, Aberdeen International Airport, Aberdeen City Council and Aberdeenshire Council – are bitterly disappointed in this missed opportunity for Scotland and the UK and will continue to seek alternative approaches to deliver the region’s net zero targets.
Today’s decision is a blow to the region and also undermines the ambitions of the Scottish Government’s new Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan. It highlights the North East’s role as a global centre for the energy industry, with more than 50 years of knowledge and experience in offshore energy exploration and production. The Strategy aims to deliver 58,000 net additional jobs in low carbon and emphasises the transferability of oil and gas expertise to new skills development and job creation.
The Green Freeport bid was developed to deliver these benefits sooner and at a greater scale, and projects identified in the Strategy – such as CCUS, hydrogen production and the ETZ – were all included in the proposed green freeport zone. The decision not to give North East Scotland a Green Freeport undermines the North East’s contribution to the ambitions of both governments, and its world class credentials as a location for investment in Scotland’s energy sector.
The NESGF bid has secured the support of over 300 companies and organisations across the North East of Scotland, as well as vocal cross-party support from regional MPs, MSPs and councillors.
The UK Government has emphasised the importance of meeting its net zero targets and protecting the country’s energy security, while the Scottish Government has expressed its commitment to repositioning the North East of Scotland as the ‘Net Zero Capital of the World.’ The North East is uniquely positioned to deliver the UK’s energy ambitions, and the focus must now be on looking at alternative ways to deliver them, but this is a lost opportunity to turbo charge the economic and environmental benefits the area can deliver.
The consortium and supporting partners will continue to work with both governments on these mechanisms to deliver additional investment and employment impacts – such as another green freeport, or new incentives and levers to attract inward investment.
Bob Sanguinetti, Chief Executive of Port of Aberdeen, said:
“We are clearly disappointed that the North East Scotland Green Freeport bid was unsuccessful. This region is fundamental to achieving energy security and delivering a Just Transition to a net zero economy. Awarding Green Freeport status to the North East of Scotland would have transformed the nation’s capabilities and accelerated delivery on both these fronts.”
“Our vision is to be Scotland’s premier net zero port at the heart of the nation’s energy transition. The Port’s £400 million investment in our South Harbour expansion project is crucial to making this a reality. However, without Green Freeport status, we call on the Scottish Government and UK Government to engage and explore opportunities that help realise the full potential of this strategic infrastructure.”
Simon Brebner, Chief Executive of Peterhead Port Authority, said: “We are hugely disappointed that our bid has been unsuccessful, thus depriving not only the North East of Scotland but the entire country of the opportunity to reach its net zero goals while supercharging the local economy through innovation and job creation as we transition away from oil and gas.
“The bid received unwavering support from key sectors across the region, notably the seafood industry in Peterhead, and we remain committed to delivering our ambitions to these organisations through alternative means.”
Mark Beveridge, Operations Director at Aberdeen International Airport, said: “We are disappointed to hear we have been unsuccessful in our Green Freeport bid. We felt our bid would have been transformational for this region helping deliver new world class renewable energy opportunities and position Aberdeen as the net zero Capital of Europe.
“We call on both Governments to engage with us to help decarbonise the aviation industry through carbon capture and sustainable aviation fuel.”
Councillor Alex Nicoll, Co-Leader of Aberdeen City Council, said: “Our bid secured significant commitments by industry in response to the unique opportunity presented by a Green Freeport. Across our organisations we have also invested in the work to date, which offers a strong platform for us to achieve our ambitions.
“The challenges to our economy remain and although we have not been awarded Green Freeport status, our work to maximise the opportunities from being a leading global offshore energy location continues. Aberdeen contributes significantly to the Scottish and UK economies and the Council will work with government and regional partners to deliver our economic priorities.”
Councillor Mark Findlater, Leader of Aberdeenshire Council, said: “I am disappointed to learn that the Aberdeen City and Peterhead region was unsuccessful in our bid for Green Freeport status. A Green Freeport would have been transformational for the region, Scotland and further afield, notably supporting the development of Scotland’s only carbon capture cluster, Acorn at St. Fergus. However, this outcome will not deter us from pursuing our ambitions around net zero, regeneration, innovation and food and drink exports, whilst playing a leading role in the global energy transition.
“A tremendous amount of work went into the Green Freeport bidding process, and I am grateful to all regional partners and supporting organisations for their perseverance over the past few months. Well done to everyone involved.”