Scotland is to gain two new freeports in Cromarty Firth and the Forth, which Downing Street says will help to create over 75,000 new, high-skilled jobs.
The UK and Scottish governments have jointly confirmed that Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport and Forth Green Freeport have been successful in their bids to establish new green freeports with an equal shame of £52m of UK government funding.
Rishi Sunak’s government says the new sites will “help to level up Scotland” by bringing forward an estimated £10.8bn of private and public investment.
Both new green freeports are expected to become operational in late 2023.
The announcement came as Mr Sunak made his first visit to Scotland as prime minister.
On Thursday, he and Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon are understood to have discussed the economy and the NHS in a private meeting in Inverness.
The PM said the creation of two new freeports will also assist both the UK and Scottish governments on their commitments to transition to net zero and “bring jobs and investment to the region”.
“Working together delivers results – and I am absolutely delighted that the first minister and I can announce the delivery of our shared ambition for people in Scotland today with not one, but two, excellent green freeport areas,” he said.
Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said the two freeports will “undoubtedly be transformative for future generations to come”.
Meanwhile, Scotland’s Deputy First Minister John Swinney described the news as a “milestone achievement”.
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said both sites will be granted up to £26m in UK government funding “that will spark innovation, create high-quality jobs and encourage regeneration for the benefit of the whole of Scotland”.
He added: “UK freeports are a key part of the UK government’s levelling up strategy – they will bring prosperity and growth that is crucial as we tackle the challenges associated with rising energy prices and the increased cost of living.”
During the bidding process, consortiums had to submit proposals demonstrating to officials and ministers from both governments how they would regenerate local communities, deliver decarbonisation, establish hubs for global trade and foster an innovative environment to support levelling up.
The Forth Green Freeport site includes the ports at Grangemouth, Rosyth and Leith, Edinburgh Airport, and a site at Burntisland.
The Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport site includes the Ports of Inverness, Cromarty Firth and Nigg and Inverness Airport.
Both are aiming to drive the transition to net zero by 2045.
There are already eight freeport sites open for business in England, with sites in Plymouth and South Devon, Solent, Teesside, Liverpool and East Anglia also recently being granted final government approval.
Shadow levelling up secretary Lisa Nandy called on the government to show “far more ambition”.
“Freeports are not new and are not the answer to the lack of the growth facing the country after 13 years of Conservative economic failure,” she said.
“More and more evidence shows that these limited plans will do little to dent the UK’s huge regional inequalities.”