Dumfries and Galloway Council’s interest in a freeport for Cairnryan, Stranraer and the surrounding area is driven by several considerations. First and foremost, is the future of the north channel ferry crossings between Cairnryan, Larne and Belfast. This busy ferry route is a link of strategic importance to the whole of Scotland. We have the largest roll-on roll-off freight volume in Scotland and the 6th largest in the UK.
Recognising both the current significance and future potential of that link through freeport status would demonstrate a serious and ongoing commitment to the route.
Now, however, the ports’ arrangement is very much one for transit. The ferry companies and port facilities provide welcome local employment, but the business is very much that of moving goods on. So, our second consideration is how to make the area surrounding the ports themselves one in which business is done as well as goods moved through.
Our third consideration is the coincidence of geography and international politics. The Irish Trade Corridor and the proximity to the EU Customs Zone are the ports’ unique selling points. Other locations in Scotland aren’t much further from Ireland (indeed the Mull of Kintyre is far closer) but we have the unique combination of proximity plus established ferry routes. With that in mind, we’ve chosen the working title of “Scotland’s Southwest Euro Gateway” although the eventual name and branding would be a matter for the commercial operator, should we be successful.
Of no less importance to us, however, is the extent to which Greenport principles align with our own council priorities. Greenport objectives, as set out by the Sottish Government are:
- promote regeneration and job creation through inclusive and sustainable growth
- establish hubs for global trade and investment
- contribute to a just transition to a net zero economy
- drive fair work practice
- foster an innovative environment
Greenports’ are expected to do this by paying the real living wage; adopting the Scottish Business Pledge; committing to supporting sustainable and inclusive growth in local communities; and contributing to Scotland’s just transition to net zero.
As a council, we pay living wage and through our membership of the South of Scotland Regional Economic Partnership and our own declaration of a climate emergency – with its associated 12-point action plan – we both recognise and reflect these same policy objectives in our own work both individually and with other partners across the South of Scotland.
We are convinced that a greenport centred on the Cairnryan crossings can make a material contribution to these important objectives, particularly to improving average earnings, which have been historically low for our region, making fair work practices the common standard and acting as a major catalyst for substantial and widespread economic regeneration for the west of our region.
Regeneration must be core to the positive impacts that a greenport will be judged against. Stranraer suffered for the loss of the ferries to the Cairnryan ports further up Loch Ryan, nearer the sea. Since the ferries moved in 2008 the town has worked hard to reinvent itself as a tourist and marine leisure destination, with considerable success – including hosting the World Coastal Rowing Championships in 2019 to great acclaim. But there’s no question that the loss of the regular, daily traffic to and from the old ports has had an impact from which there is still a way to go in terms of recovery. Becoming part of a new and attractive location for business, and businesses offering attractive wages, terms and conditions – as a greenport sets out to do – will surely make a positive contribution to the economic vibrance both of Stranraer itself and the wider Wigtownshire area.
To me, there’s an appealing symmetry to the next generation of port activity being able to redress the negative consequences of the admittedly necessary 2008 relocation.
The proposal has attracted significant private sector interest and support too. Our bid partnership includes DP World, P&O, Stena, Fred Olsen Renewables, Vattenfall, Natural Power, EDF, Scottish Renewables and Scottish Power Renewables. We are greatly encouraged that companies with international profiles and experience are both interested in, and prepared to commit to, our corner of Scotland and recognise its importance and potential. We also have an important public sector partner in South of Scotland Enterprise, whose support and assistance has been incredibly valuable.
Our bid will be a good one, with it we can balance the objectives of greenports with our own regional priorities and deliver a proposition we are confident will be of real benefit both to the people of our region and to Scotland.