"SCOTLAND has extraordinary economic potential. Securing commitments to fair work and accelerating the journey to a net-zero economy as part of the agreement to introduce two new green freeports in Scotland will contribute to our aims for a wellbeing economy.”

These were the positive words written by the Scottish Government in the foreword to the Green Freeports in Scotland Bidding Prospectus. The document outlines clearly and concisely how the Scottish Government wants green freeports to tackle the issues that directly affect our nation: climate change, quality employment and a sustainable economy.

So what has changed? Scotland’s green freeports have now been chosen – one of which is Inverness and Cromarty Firth. This is hugely welcome news for the Highlands, at a time when The National’s sister paper, The Herald, shone a highly informative yet worrying light on the region’s significant issues both economically and in terms of loss of working age population.

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So while people elsewhere might voice concerns about what green freeports mean and perpetuate myths as to why they are bad for our country, for many in the Highlands this is the news they were craving. It gives them that vital ingredient – hope. Hope of developing a pipeline of quality jobs for decades and an opportunity to help build a clean economy that drives forward the country’s green ambitions and creates high-wage opportunities on a level not seen since the oil boom of the 1970s.

That is what we are developing. A future that helps – not hinders – Scotland to reach its green targets. A future that reverses decades of decline in Highland industry, economy and jobs. Both will be achieved by harnessing the power of renewable energy to provide the foundation for a total transition to a net-zero economy. In doing so, the Highlands will become an exporter of clean energy, and provide a pipeline of renewables opportunities for generations of Scots.

This is not a pipe dream. This is reality. There is, however, significant international competition for this work. Significant investment is under way in Norway, Finland and Denmark in maritime infrastructure to attract this work, most notably in Port of Esbjerg where €780 million has been committed to attract investment in the offshore wind industry. This is a prize we have to fight for. The Scottish Government can see this. It helped lead this process and negotiated for “green” to be added to the freeports title. It sees how the offshore wind projects being built off the Highlands can transform our economy, aid the just transition and make us look to a future where we live with, rather than compete against, our environment.

For those at Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport, it represents a burning economic – rather than politically-motivated – ambition. That ambition is to take advantage of the huge opportunity renewables can bring to Scotland.

This was perfectly encapsulated in the ScotWind leasing round announcement two years ago – 20 offshore wind developments, representing a combined investment of almost £30 billion, are now currently being planned, with the majority of them close to our region.

Individual organisations cannot service this overwhelming pipeline of work alone. That is why a cluster of more than 30 regional, national and international businesses, public-sector organisations and academic bodies joined forces to ensure through partnerships that the infrastructure and technologies are created in Scotland to meet this demand.

We realised we could make history, and through the Inverness and Cromarty Green Freeport we have the vehicle to achieve this. But to serve these developments properly, we also recognised that in the Highlands we need internationally significant inward investment.

That is why it is so important that companies such as Sumitomo Electric UK Power Cables – a subsidiary of Japanese company Sumitomo Electric Industries – will invest £350m into a major manufacturing project in the Highlands which will support the energy transition. Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport submitted in its outline business case locations totalling 520 hectares which will become “tax sites’, the engine room of innovation and industrial development attracting investment from around the world.

These sites will be leased by inward investors, who will benefit from a range of incentives. In total, the land, which includes areas on the shores of the Cromarty Firth, in the Highland capital and at Ardersier, amounts to the largest green energy development site in Europe.

The National: ScottishPower applied successfully with Storrega for support for the Cromarty Hydrogen project,

Independent specialists, who interviewed landowners and potential investors forecast that, with the tax site designation their development will lead to the creation of 10,250 new jobs in the Highlands over the next 25 years and a total of 16,500 across the UK.

Critics may point to the above and claim it proves their argument – this is purely to serve big business. But look at the jobs created and think about the spin-off opportunities for Highland companies. In any case, no matter how big or small – but the most important matter for the Highlands is job creation.

A final business case is currently being completed and is expected to be presented to the Highland Council, as an accountable body, in the coming months. It will then be submitted to the Scottish and UK governments – so again, Holyrood has a chance to shape the vision of the green freeport to meet its ambitions of accelerating economic growth and innovation, as well as growing and decarbonising the offshore energy industry, rather than providing a so-called tax dodge.

READ MORE: Five key points from The National's series on Scotland's green freeports

So it’s time to reject negativity, talk up the Highlands and Scotland, and look to the economic positives. Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport has the opportunity to become the biggest industrial development in our lifetime.

This will be supported through democratic accountability at Holyrood and Westminster and through robust governance provided by Highland Council as the accountable body collaborating with the Inverness and Cromarty Green Freeport Ltd. The outcome will be transformative, for the Highlands, Scotland, our economy and climate.

For the political naysayers who perpetuate 20th-century freeport myths rather than consider

21st-century reality, we’re happy to meet you along the beautiful waters of the Cromarty Firth and show you how all this can be achieved. The Highlands stand on the threshold of a new industrial clean energy revolution. Let’s celebrate this.

Calum MacPherson is the chief executive officer of the Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport