A MAJOR Scottish whisky maker has hailed plans for a green freeport in the north of Scotland and said it could boost net zero targets.

Among the benefits, Whyte and Mackay said, of setting up a green freeport in the Scottish Highlands would be helping it achieve its target of becoming carbon neutral by 2030.

An Inverness and Cromarty Firth bid is one of five around Scotland, including Clyde Green Freeport, Firth of Forth Green Freeport, Aberdeen City and Peterhead Green Freeport, and the Orkney Green Freeport.

The Scotch giant, which says it is the largest distiller in the north of Scotland, is expected to be one of the first users of green hydrogen produced from a planned electrolyser on the Cromarty Firth.

It believes its decarbonisation drive would be boosted by a scaling up of the clean gas production plant that would be enabled by green freeport status.

Whyte and Mackay owns five distilleries across Scotland, including Invergordon and The Dalmore on the Cromarty Firth, on the east coast of the Highlands.

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The company funded a feasibility study for the electrolyser, along with fellow distillers Glenmorangie and Diageo, as well as ScottishPower, Storegga and the Port of Cromarty Firth.

ScottishPower and Storegga have announced plans to jointly develop one of the UK’s largest green hydrogen plants in the area. The project’s first phase, expected to be operational in 2025, will be capable of producing up to 20 tonnes of green hydrogen a day, for use in distillery heating processes, as well as regional transportation.

The Herald: The hydrogen planThe hydrogen plan (Image: ScottishPower)

The firm underlined its support for the north Green Freeport in a letter included with the Opportunity Cromarty Firth consortium’s bid, submitted to UK and Scottish ministers in June.

Whyte and Mackay said its Invergordon distillery is the largest in the north of Scotland and the company is one of the biggest employers in the Cromarty Firth area, with a workforce of around 130.

“The Cromarty Firth area is of central importance to our business and where we also hold the vast majority of our maturing whisky inventory,” Shane Healy, Whyte and Mackay’s distilling director, said. “The freeport tax incentive can help accelerate the scale-up of the electrolyser and also reduce the cost of green hydrogen."

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He said: "This is important to allow us to achieve our ambitious decarbonisation goals and also to allow us to be competitive, as we encounter the cost disadvantages by operating in a semi-rural location, almost 200 miles from our bottling and distribution plant in Grangemouth.

“The Opportunity Cromarty Firth submission is centred in the areas where we have our largest distilling and maturation footprint and we are fully supportive of the consortium and the benefit it can bring to our area and the community within.”

Bob Buskie, Port of Cromarty Firth chief executive, said: “We would like to sincerely thank Whyte and Mackay for their strong expression of support for our bid.

“They, along with Glenmorangie, Diageo, ScottishPower and Storegga have been instrumental in driving the development of a green hydrogen industry in the Highlands and fully support the scaling up of that industry that can be accelerated by the award of green freeport status.”

The OCF consortium, launched in 2020, includes the ports of Cromarty Firth, Nigg and Inverness and also Inverness Airport and Inverness Airport Business Park.