The Highlands’ largest airport and Inverness Airport Business Park (IABP) have joined the Opportunity Cromarty Firth (OCF) consortium bidding for a Green Freeport to be established in the north.
Inverness airport and business park join a growing list of consortium members that includes the Port of Cromarty Firth, Global Energy Group, Highland Council, the University of the Highlands and Islands and Inverness Chamber of Commerce.
The airport and the adjoining 275-acre business park are vital components of the bid being prepared to submit to the Scottish and UK governments.
The main gateway for travellers to the north of Scotland from the UK and around the world, Inverness is the largest of Highlands and Islands Airports Limited’s (HIAL) 11 airports. In the year before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the airport’s annual passenger figures were approaching one million and it also serves as a vital air freight hub for the Highlands.
A mixed-use commercial property development, which already has a range of tenants including a 130-bedroom hotel on-site and offers space for more businesses, IABP is a joint-venture by Moray Estates, HIAL, Highland Council and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).
HIAL managing director, Inglis Lyon, said: “Like many others, we believe the award of Green Freeport status to the Cromarty Firth and Inverness area would bring a game-changing and long-term boost to the economies of the Highlands and Scotland as a whole.
“We are very pleased to have joined OCF and are working closely with fellow consortium members as the bid for this transformational opportunity is finalised.
“By stimulating further economic activity and attracting more inward investment that can create thousands of new jobs, a Green Freeport here will help shape the more prosperous and sustainable future that this unique region needs and deserves.”
Speaking on behalf of OCF, Port of Cromarty Firth chief executive, Bob Buskie, said: “Inverness Airport and Inverness Airport Business Park coming on board with the OCF consortium adds vital components to the compelling bid we are preparing to secure Green Freeport status.
“The airport is the key UK and international transport hub for Inverness, the Cromarty Firth and the wider area and the IABP offers the modern facilities, infrastructure and space needed by businesses looking to set up operations or expand here.
“We very much welcome both as members of OCF and are confident their involvement greatly enhances what is already a highly persuasive bid.”
OCF believes a Green Freeport centred on the Cromarty Firth and Inverness will maximise local, Scottish and UK-wide benefits from a pipeline of renewable energy projects and place the Highlands at the heart of the drive towards net-zero.
Last week, the consortium released initial findings of research by independent economic experts Biggar Economics indicating freeport status would spark an employment boom creating tens of thousands of new jobs in the Highlands, Scotland and the UK over a decade.
International offshore wind developers, Falck Renewables, BlueFloat Energy and Ørsted UK, have also voiced their support, stating they were convinced it would “build a pipeline of jobs for the benefit of Scotland and the UK.”