At the Renewable UK 2010 conference this week, Alex Salmond announced a new £70million fund to help Scottish ports benefit from the huge potential investment arising from the off-shore wind power industry in the North Sea. Interestingly, this fund is £10million pounds larger the equivalent English fund, and it will be available 12 months earlier – so this initiative could prove important in giving Scotland a ‘first mover advantage’ in the competition for jobs in the manufacture and servicing of North Sea off-shore wind turbines. In the outer reaches of the Firth of Forth alone, there is already consent in place for an offshore windfarm with around 600 turbines and plans for a total of 5.9GW of energy production. Its suggested that around 7000 offshore wind turbines are likely to be installed in UK coastal waters in the coming years.
This announcement is important, as Leith has previously been identified as the most promising base in Scotland for both the manufacture and maintenance of the off-shore wind turbines. Leith is also mentioned amongst the sites almost certain to benefit from this new money announced this week. A plan on the Scottish Enterprise website, suggests that Leith may be in line for around £35million from the fund, which will be used to improve the infrastructure of the site – including a plan for a berth on the tidal side of the docks, outside the lock gates.
We’re sure that most people would welcome the opportunities this could bring to diversify the local economy into highly skilled, well paid, green manufacturing jobs.
This week the council also discussed a report that outlines proposals for a £84million Tax Incremental Funding (TIF) investment in the docks area – designed to kick start regeneration around the docks too. It seems that speculation that this TIF money could be used to ensure that the tram line is completed all the way to the docks has come to nothing. Instead the report focusses on four infrastructure projects that have previously been announced. These are:
- A new link road between Seafield Road and Salamander Street. This will help to remove through traffic from Commercial Street and Bernard Street.
- A Public esplanade and ‘events hub’ at Ocean Terminal.
- A new finger pier for the Royal Yacht Britania and visiting cruise liners.
- New lock gates for Leith Harbour.
Local councillor Gordon Munro called for local representatives to be included in the management arrangements for the project. However, the motion was not supported by other councillors.
Instead, the TIF money will be managed by an ‘executive group’ comprised of 1 person from the Scottish Futures Trust, 3 Council Officers and 2 employees of Forth Ports plc. Given that this group are responsible for spending £84million worth of public money, we’d be interested to know whether you think that there should be, at the very least, one local elected politician on the group?