THERE’S a “very compelling” case for the Forth being chosen as the site of a new green freeport with up to 50,000 new jobs and £6 billion of investment.
Two special economic zones, which will offer tax breaks and low tariffs to entice businesses, will be set up in Scotland next year and it’s hoped the bid with Rosyth at its heart will be one of the winners.
Stuart Wallace, chief operating officer of Forth Ports, explained: “I genuinely feel that we have an exceptionally strong level of collaboration and commitment from private and public sector, and by that I mean the three councils as well as the higher and further education establishments, and it’s a very compelling bid.”
Led by Forth Ports, with partners Babcock, Edinburgh Airport, Fife, Falkirk and Edinburgh councils, Ineos and the Scarborough Muir Group, it includes 550 hectares of development land and five key sites, Rosyth, Grangemouth, Burntisland, Leith and Edinburgh Airport.
Mr Wallace said: “It’s about providing a mechanism to attract businesses into the area, focusing on dealing with Scotland’s transition to net zero and the need to address the creation of good, high-quality, skilled jobs in areas of local deprivation.
“It’s a set of financial incentives that make it attractive to inward investors.
“For me, our bid ticks a lot of boxes, not just for the Firth of Forth, but for the Central Belt and Scotland as a whole.”
Incentives will make the green freeport more competitive, able to attract more companies to locate and invest here, in turn creating large-scale development.
The aim is to make it easier and cheaper to move goods in and out of the country, boosting both international trade and the local economy.
A skills fund, innovation hubs and research and development centres will ensure it’s backed by a trained workforce that’s rewarded with better-paid, high-quality jobs, helping with the ‘levelling up’ of society and lifting people in areas of deprivation out of poverty.
Other spin-offs include additional money for councils to fund major improvements to infrastructure in West Fife, such as roads and community facilities.
Mr Wallace said: “There’s a huge amount of skills and expertise that’s already here, in places like Babcock, and it’s about using that knowledge today to create skills for tomorrow.”
The separate plans to re-start a ferry service between mainland Europe and Rosyth next year are an obvious aid to boost trade, while there are also bid proposals for new container and fuel terminals.
There are four other bids – Clyde; Aberdeen City and Peterhead; Inverness and Cromarty Firth; and Orkney – and, with the high stakes involved, there will be definite winners and losers.
If, for example, Clyde and Aberdeen are chosen, they will have a distinct advantage over places like Rosyth when it comes to offering financial incentives, such as relief from employers paying National Insurance contributions and non-domestic rates, which will make it easier to attract business and jobs.
A decision will be taken by the Scottish and UK governments this summer, with two green freeports going live in spring 2023.
In its favour, the Forth bid has announced the biggest number of potential jobs, 50,000 across the country, and plans to re-industrialise the Forth with ‘green’ technologies will lead to a cleaner future.
If successful, Rosyth will become an innovation hub for offshore wind manufacturing, shipbuilding and renewable energy, while moving industry away from the reliance on oil and gas to alternative fuels will help with net zero aims.
Currently, the area around the Forth is responsible for 40 per cent of Scotland’s industrial emissions.
Big promises have been made in the past – the Rosyth international container terminal was supposed to bring a jobs bonanza that never materialised – but Mr Wallace insisted: “This will happen.
“A commitment has been given by both governments to create these two green freeports and with that goes £25m of seed capital funding for each of the green freeports to allow them to become reality.”