My Column

Its ship ship hooray for our freeports

  • Date: Monday 23rd January 2023
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It’s full steam ahead for Scotland’s green freeports, as the UK and Scottish governments jointly confirmed last Friday that the proposed Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport and Forth Green Freeport were successful in their bids.

In a drawn out 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.

A shortlist of five bids were received by the committee early in 2022, including Clyde Green Freeport, Aberdeen City and Peterhead Green Freeport alongside Orkney Green Freeport.

However, the two winning bids from The Forth Green Freeport site – including the ports at Grangemouth, Rosyth and Leith, Edinburgh Airport, and a site at Burntisland, alongside the Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport site, with the Ports of Inverness, Cromarty Firth and Nigg and Inverness Airport – were announced as successful, during the UK PM’s recent visit to Scotland.

The initial green freeport concept received backing from a number of Scottish businesses and sectors from across the country when the bidding process started early in 2022, so I hope they’ll meet aspirations of boosting new trade opportunities and private investment within the local areas and beyond.

With both sites earmarked for becoming operational by the end of the year, its not only potential new trade routes that will be opened up. I note that Downing Street is promising over 75,000 new high-skilled jobs will become available, and it’s expected to bring a huge economic boost for both the East coast and Scotland as a whole.

This hasn’t come cheap. The two winning bids will be supported by up to £52m in start-up funding to be shared between them, and with the freeports being essentially free trade zones within the country, they’ll enjoy tax relief and other incentives through a combination of devolved and reserved powers.

I’ve been a firm believer in the concept since it was announced. Anything that the government, both here in Scotland and the UK, can do to promote trade, support businesses and create jobs is a huge benefit to the economy. You don’t have to work in finance to see this.

But interestingly, someone who does work across finance didn’t seem so happy to see the freeport announcement – Scottish Greens MSP Ross Greer. In a rather unsurprising attack on an initiative that is likely to bolster future Scottish trade, and in turn provide a much-needed boost to local communities, Mr Greer denounced his own government’s decision.

Increasingly showing his contempt for business in general and his aversion to investment within the Scottish economy to help the very communities he proports to support, he called the Green Freeports a ‘Thatcherite gimmick’.

Will it turn out to be a gimmick? I’m not convinced. Through initial government investment to create the infrastructure for the Scottish Freeports, we’ll see a domino effect of private investment in the area as companies benefit from the new trade opportunities. Something which I, and I’m sure many within the Scottish business community, will be keen to see become successful.

The Friday 13th freeport announcement was unlucky for some however, as the West of Scotland bids, including the proposed Clyde Green Freeport, missed out on being selected.

It must have come as a big blow. Stuart Patrick, chief executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, was quick to call for further engagement with both governments to ensure Glasgow and the wider area isn’t left behind through its Leveling Up strategy.

With recent figures from the Royal Bank of Scotland showing that Scottish private sector output fell for a fifth consecutive month in December, alongside a marginal decrease in employment for the first time in 21 months, it’s not all rosy within certain areas of the Scottish economy.

More worrying perhaps is that the business activity index from the bank showed that confidence among Scottish companies   on the prospects for increased business activity in a year's time, fell for a second consecutive month in December.

In these turbulent times then, we must do all we can to help support Scottish businesses and encourage commerce. I believe the new freeports will do just that and I look forward to seeing both the Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport and Forth Green Freeport bolster Scottish trade in the future.



After the long-awaited build up to the first-ever orbital rocket launch from British soil failed recently, there’s a sense of deflation in the UK’s space community.

But let’s not let it eclipse some of the other great work going on in this arena right now.

Glasgow based imaging technology start-up, Metahelios, is hoping to send its cameras into space after securing funds from the British Business Bank’s Start Up Loans programme, bringing its total financing up to £50k.

The company is looking to make its mark using a  pioneering long-distance camera that can tell the difference between different materials using a still image.

Its chief executive, Dr Charles Altuzarra, reckons Scotland’s space and satellite scene is “booming” and this comes just weeks after Colin Macleod of the Civil Aviation Authority declared we might see Scottish launched rockets into space by the end of the year.

Meanwhile in Edinburgh, a company called AstroAgency has bagged three deals with the UK Space Agency (UKSA), having been announced as the operator for the marketing branch for Space Scotland, while also securing several contracts with private companies in Europe and the US.

It’s one success story after the next for Scots in the latest space race so let’s not let the failed launch in Cornwall dampen our spirits – there are still tons of opportunities for companies to shine bright as they reach for the stars.

It gives me great hope knowing that both the UK and Scottish space industries are working hard to drive innovation in one of the most cutting-edge industries on earth…and beyond!



Whisky producers will no doubt have seen a spike in sales as Scots get their wee drams ready for Burns Night this Wednesday.

But is it soon going to be ‘last orders’ for the industry?

A recent review from the Scottish Government on alcohol advertising put forward the suggestion of a total ban on alcohol promotions within public places.

There are many considerations involved when contemplating a policy change of this magnitude, but it would undoubtedly damage the whisky trade – an important market for Scotland’s food and drinks industry.

Scotch whisky brands in particular are proud of their rich history and will no doubt see advertising as an important and influential platform to show off their wares and tell their story.

It will be interesting to see the outcome.



If you want something to make you smile, get yourself to Galashiels as it’s just been crowned Scotland’s happiest place to live according to Rightmove’s ‘Happy at Home’ study.

It came second in the UK, narrowly missing out to the up-market coastal town of St. Ives in the South-West of England.

A sense of belonging, polite and friendly residents, and access to nature were all key components that Gala scored highly on.

What made me laugh was the difference in average property prices in the top two locations. St Ives comes in at an average of £520,000 while Galashiels averaged out at £153,000 – less than a third compared to its English counterpart.


“Money can’t buy happiness” is what we’re always told growing up, but if you disagree then head to Galashiels which seems to offer the best bang for your buck! 

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