The Scottish and UK governments plan to award Green Freeport status to two local areas in Scotland to promote regeneration, create jobs and support the transition to a net zero economy. This is a great chance for parts of the population, who have been left behind in the jobs market, to benefit from our role as a trading nation and from the potential that Scotland’s ports present for further economic growth.
And it strikes me that this is actually a huge opportunity for Scotland itself, working together as a team, to ensure that the benefits of these Green Freeports are shared with the communities that need them the most.
To do that, we must first visualise success. There can be no doubt that the road to a net zero economy lies with renewable energy – offshore wind in Scotland’s case – and in carbon capture and hydrogen manufacturing and storage. We need to see our largest traditional industrial area, Scotland’s Central Belt, make this “just transition” successfully, and that requires a Team Scotland approach.
The Forth Estuary is home to Scotland’s largest manufacturing sites, the petrochemical, oil and gas complexes at the Port of Grangemouth and Mossmorran. The Port of Leith will soon host Scotland’s largest renewables hub which will house offshore wind manufacturing and assembly facilities. At the Port of Rosyth, food security is the focus of Scotland’s largest agricultural hub. Potentially an international freight hub too, it could play an important role, along with other Fife ports, in supporting offshore wind. None of this happens by accident, it is due to the Forth’s place in Scotland as a major trading zone with 50% of Scotland’s Gross Domestic Product passing through the River Forth.
There is an unquestionable synergy between the Forth’s relationship, through the refineries at Grangemouth, with downstream oil and gas and Aberdeen’s ties with upstream oil and gas. Here is what success looks like: a green growth corridor on the Forth that works closely with Aberdeen and Peterhead as Scotland tackles the need for carbon capture and storage and, of course, for the manufacturing, storage and transportation – by pipeline or by ship – of hydrogen.
We can work together to support the transition to net zero emissions, while acting as a catalyst for the re-industrialisation of Scotland, creating 50,000 high quality, green jobs in areas of local deprivation in the Central Belt and Fife.
And let’s be clear, a thriving Grangemouth means real jobs for people in Glasgow, Falkirk and Stirling. The renewables hub in Leith will create employment not just in Leith and Edinburgh but across the river in Fife, where complementary renewables activity will create jobs from Inverkeithing to Leven and beyond. And if we can harness such opportunities for skills development as our artificial intelligence-backed skills programme for those furthest from the jobs market, even better.
At Forth Ports, we’re already investing in supply chain resilience, energy security, food security and the transition to net zero. What I hope will come from the Green Freeports initiative is the spreading of benefits of trade into the communities that most need it.
Charles Hammond OBE is Group Chief Executive of Forth Ports Limited