SCOTLAND’S green freeports have been hailed as the country’s “biggest industrial development in a generation”.

CEO of Inverness and Cromarty Firth green freeport Calum MacPherson (below) has exclusively revealed to The National that the Highland scheme’s tax sites will be live from April 8 – exactly a week today – after their outline business case was approved by the Scottish and UK governments.

“Companies like Sumatomo – the Japanese firm that has agreed to invest £350 million into a major energy project in the Highlands – will be able to start exercising their benefits,” he said.

"It's the biggest industrial development in our lifetimes."

The designated tax sites for the Inverness and Cromarty Firth green freeport are in Deephaven, Invergordon and Nigg.

Forth green freeport, meanwhile, is still waiting for its outline business case to be approved.

The National:

READ MORE: Scotland's green freeports: What do you want to know?

It comes as The National launches a week-long series today (Monday) on Scotland’s green freeports after an overwhelming amount of reader interest and concern towards the issue.

Over the next few days, we will be speaking with key players and critics of the scheme with a host of exclusive content coming your way. This includes in-depth explainers and answering some of the questions you have already submitted through our online form.

Both of Scotland’s two winning bids in January last year – Inverness and Cromarty Firth as well as Forth – aren’t officially green freeports until the final business case is approved by the Scottish and UK Governments, upon which a total of £52 million of seed funding will be released.

The scheme, which offers special tax incentives and lower tariffs around ports, with the aim of stimulating economic growth, has proven controversial – including concern from community groups that it’s a “Westminster power grab” and could lead to an increase in crime and smuggling. 

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The Scottish Greens are notable critics, with MSP Ross Greer (pictured above) previously calling the plans “greenwashing” and that there is nothing “genuinely green” about the hubs.

Greer has also said that past freeports have not delivered on promised jobs and are an effective way to “throw public money at multinational companies who are already doing their best to avoid tax".

Tax relief for the freeports was extended for a further five years two weeks ago after UK and Scottish ministers reached an agreement.

The UK Government said the scheme “shows what can be achieved when Scotland’s two governments work together” – claiming it will regenerate the two areas and attract up to an estimated £10 billion in investment and 75,000 new, high-skilled jobs.

MacPherson thinks that this could even be an underestimate given Scotland's particularly high potential for both pumped hydro schemes and offshore wind. 

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“I told the Deputy First Minister Shona Robison last week that this is the biggest industrial development in Scotland in a generation. It's the biggest in our lifetimes,” he said.

“I do slightly wonder if it were happening in the Central Belt, whether it would have had more attention.

“Sometimes we just have to scream a bit louder.”

MacPherson (below) added: “You're looking at a product of about £7.5 billion being spent in our region in the next five to ten years.

“This is immense and it's really the injection we've been needing for generations.”

A Forth green freeport spokesperson, meanwhile, told The National that they expect their outline business case to be approved in the coming weeks.

“Once our business case has been approved, and the Green Freeport is effectively live, we look forward to engaging with local communities,” they said.

“Together, we will focus on the creation of long-term, fulfilling employment opportunities for current and future generations.”

Reacting to the news that the Highland scheme's tax sites are going live on April 8,  A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We intend Scotland’s green freeports to become internationally competitive clusters of excellence which can attract people to live and work and create a fair, green and growing economy.“

"Scotland’s green freeports aim to make a significant contribution to achieving our net zero ambitions and will drive the creation of large numbers of high-quality, well-paid jobs with fair work practices at their heart, including the payment of the real Living Wage.

"The Green Freeport at Inverness and Cromarty Firth, in particular, stands to make a real difference to the decline in the working age population seen in the Highlands in recent years.”

A spokesperson for the UK Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said: “The UK and Scottish governments have worked together to develop our Green Freeports - including Inverness and Cromarty Firth – which aim to create 25,000 jobs and generate £4.8bn in investment.

“Inverness and Cromarty Firth is already making excellent use of its Freeport status by attracting major investments, including £350m from SUMITOMO to invest in a cable factory.

“These freeports will level up the country and deliver a real boost for local people, and we look forward to them opening for business in early April.”

The National’s green freeports series will be running from April 1 to 5 with exclusive content every day online and in the newspaper.