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Freeport a Real Missed Opportunity

The news that the Clyde Green Freeport bid has been unsuccessful is bitterly disappointing to say the least. Despite this blow, I congratulate both successful bids, Forth and Cromarty Firth. Back in August, Edinburgh Airport were good enough to present their plans to me and there’s no doubt that it was a strong bid and I wish them well. I am particularly pleased for Cromarty Firth and the wider Highlands, this could be transformational for an area with so much potential.

However, as the MP for Glasgow Airport, one of the partners along with Mossend Rail Freight Park and Peel Ports in Glasgow and Greenock, I feel this was a real missed opportunity to “level-up” West Central Scotland. Levelling up is a well-worn political phrase these days, but the truth is that 6 of the top 10 council areas in Scotland for deprivation levels were part of the bid. One only has to look at the map below highlighting the deprivation levels across Central Scotland to see the massive inequality East to West.

When we speak of transition these days, we generally talk about the shift to renewables and weaning ourselves off of our reliance on fossil fuels, but the reality for many parts of West Central Scotland is that they haven’t transitioned out of the carnage meted out by Thatcher when she so callously took a hammer to our heavy traditional industries.

The recovery from this generational cruelty has taken too long and for every success, there is a setback. More recently, thousands of jobs have been lost in the area, from 700 at Rolls Royce, to 500 at McVities, to the recent announcement of 300 at Amazon in Gourock.

As for Glasgow Airport itself, it’s importance to the local and wider Scottish economy cannot be understated. It generates £1.44bn GVA to the Scottish economy and supports 30,000 jobs. And there are positives, with the Glasgow Airport Investment Area and the Advanced Manufacturing and Innovation District on it’s doorstep, but these investment opportunities may now be a little less attractive. Back in medieval times (1997) when I started work in the airport in a part time job, it carried 50% more passengers per year than Edinburgh. 50%.

Sadly, despite the very best efforts of everyone working there, there has been an inexorable slide of losing market share to Edinburgh, with the Lothians airport now, using pre-pandemic figures up to 2019, carrying nearly 67% more than Glasgow. That amounts to nearly 6 million more passengers per year.

As the MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire North, but I think anybody looking at all of the above objectively wouldn’t fail to agree that it is the West that is in desperate need for investment.

When will it be the West’s turn?


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