Action for Arnish campaign is launched as Isle of Lewis yard misses out on another contract

Former Arnish workers, trade unions and community leaders have united to launch a campaign in support of the Isle of Lewis yard which has been lying idle with no work in sight.

By Kevin McRoberts
Thursday, 24th September 2020, 8:28 am
Updated Thursday, 24th September 2020, 8:31 am
The Arnish fabrication yard has been left lying idle for too long, prompting the launch of the 'Action for Arnish' campaign.
The Arnish fabrication yard has been left lying idle for too long, prompting the launch of the 'Action for Arnish' campaign.

It follows last week’s decision by SSE not to award the contract for the first phase of its Seagreen offshore wind farm to BiFab, operators of the Arnish yard, with the work instead being carried out in China and the United Arab Emirates.

The ‘Action for Arnish’ declaration calls for full transparency from the Scottish Government on current leasing terms for the yard, a statement of intent from BiFab/DF Barnes, and open access for any other company which can use the yard.

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Signatories – all in personal capacities – include the leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Roddie Mackay; the chair of the Outer Hebrides Energy Group, Ian McCulloch; former UK Energy Minister, Brian Wilson; and the interim principal of Lews Castle College, Sue MacFarlane.

All elected representatives for the Western Isles will be asked to support the declaration which is also being sent to Scottish Government Ministers. An ongoing campaign will now be mounted in support of jobs at the yard.

The initiative has come from former members of the Arnish Workers Committee.

Their spokesman, Iain MacLeod, said: “There is a great sense of frustration on the island about the way Arnish is a neglected issue for the people who hold power over it.

“We have repeatedly held back from launching this campaign because there was supposedly always something about to happen, but it never materialises. We now need to fight for the future of the yard and the jobs that depend upon it which are critical to the island’s future.”

The campaign has the support of the STUC as well as GMB and Unite trade unions who had members at the yard.

Hazel Nolan, Scottish organiser of the GMB, said: “Scotland has no chance of a ‘green recovery’ if there is no investment in the local supply chains and we continue to award renewables manufacturing contracts to the rest of the world.

“The Arnish yard has been lying mothballed for nearly a year but every turbine jacket from the Seagreen project will be manufactured in either China or the UAE, anywhere it seems but Scotland, and that’s disgraceful.

“It’s been a decade since Alex Salmond promised us the ‘Saudi Arabia of Renewables’ and Scottish Renewables forecasted 28,000 jobs in offshore wind, yet the Cabinet Secretary told parliament yesterday that delivering jobs for the ‘green revolution’ is dependent on independence.

“This is what political failure looks and sounds like, a decade of lies and spin at Holyrood and Westminster ending up in a constitutional blame game, and an industry body cheerleading for the rest of the world while Scottish communities are desperate for jobs.

“We warned that despair will turn to anger the longer this failure is left unchallenged. Communities failed by politics will take control of their own futures and the ‘Action for Arnish’ campaign is a direct response to what is a renewables scandal too far.”

Former UK Energy Minister and Lewis resident, Brian Wilson, added: “This is a campaign the whole island should get behind. The key demand is that the Arnish facility which was created through past public investment must be available to any company capable of bringing work into it, rather than sterilised by a deal that has failed to deliver.”