AN airline has backed plans for a green freeport in the Scottish Highlands, which it believes can provide a “key building block” in the drive to decarbonise the country’s air transport system.

Loganair said proposed large-scale green hydrogen production in the region will play a crucial role in establishing the range of national infrastructure needed for airlines to switch to clean, zero carbon fuels.

The move by the Glasgow-headquartered firm comes after Scottish whisky giant Whyte and Mackay also earlier wrote to ministers in support of plans for a green freeport in the north of Scotland, saying it could boost net zero targets.

Loganair has now said it backs the bid to win green freeport status by Inverness and the Cromarty Firth, which is regarded as “critical in attracting £1 billion investment to accelerate development of green hydrogen technology in the area”.

The 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.

Green freeport status, involving a zoned rail, sea or airport area, brings financial incentives to attract new investment, including tax and customs benefits such as relief from employer national insurance contributions for additional employees.

READ MORE: Whisky giant backs Cromarty green freeport

Loganair, which has operational bases across the UK, has partnered with hydrogen technology specialist ZeroAvia to create new, clean propulsion technology for aviation.

The carrier said it expects to be among the first airlines in the world to operate a zero emissions commercial flight.

Energy giants ScottishPower and Storegga have announced plans to jointly develop the UK’s largest green hydrogen plant on the Cromarty Firth.

The Herald: North of Scotland Hydrogen Programme - Masterplan.North of Scotland Hydrogen Programme - Masterplan.

Andy Smith, Loganair’s head of sustainability strategy, said the firm envisages being a “significant customer” for the hydrogen produced from the planned plant.

“The creation of a green freeport in the Cromarty Firth would produce significant benefits not only to the local economy, but also as a key building block in the vast range of national infrastructure required to produce and handle the significant quantities of green hydrogen required for a future decarbonised transport system,” said Mr Smith.

“The firth offers a unique combination of natural deep-water harbour, a broad skills base, high levels of accessible local demand and proximity to the vast, largely untapped renewable power potential of the North Sea.”

READ MORE: 'UK's largest green hydrogen power plant' to open in Scotland in 2024

Mr Smith also said Loganair expects Inverness Airport, which is a part of the bid consortium, to become one of the first UK air terminals with “significant hydrogen uptake".

The Opportunity Cromarty Firth consortium, launched in 2020, includes the ports of Cromarty Firth, Nigg and Inverness, and Inverness Airport and its business park.

Bob Buskie, Port of Cromarty Firth chief executive speaking on behalf of OCF, said: “The Cromarty Firth is going to be at the heart of that clean energy revolution and the advantages of green freeport status would enable the full potential of that position to be realised.”

It is backed by Inverness Chamber of Commerce and more than a dozen businesses, as well as bodies including the University of the Highlands and Islands.

Andrew Rae, Professor of engineering at UHI, said: “Hydrogen is one of the key fuels to enable zero-emission aviation, especially for larger, longer-range aircraft.

"UHI is already working with partners at the European Marine Energy Centre, in Orkney, and Highlands and Islands Airports to investigate the implications of hydrogen, amongst other alternative fuels on aircraft operations and airport infrastructure.”

Jonathan Hinkles, Loganair chief executive, said earlier the carrier is involved in hydrogen and electric flight trials this summer in Orkney, where it has run the Inter-Isles service since it began in 1967, adding "every form of public transport provider, whether it be rail, road, or ferries, we've all got a job to do around reducing our impact on the environment".