No deal on the cards for BiFab

The Arnish Yard is the subject of concern and anger as workers are told new contract has been awarded elsewhere.The Arnish Yard is the subject of concern and anger as workers are told new contract has been awarded elsewhere.
The Arnish Yard is the subject of concern and anger as workers are told new contract has been awarded elsewhere.
The Scottish Government must not hide behind state aid rules for its failure to support renewable energy jobs, the Scottish Greens have said.

In a statement to MSPs, Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop said the government had no legal options to prevent renewables construction contracts being sent overseas.

However, Ms Hyslop responded positively to the suggestion from Scottish Green MSP Mark Ruskell that the Scottish Government should become a majority shareholder in BiFab.

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Speaking afterwards, Scottish Greens energy spokesperson Mark Ruskell said: “There are plenty of examples across Europe of countries protecting their own supply chain through smart investments, so ministers cannot continue to hide behind state aid rules. Besides, these rules are changing anyway.

“Indeed, the SNP made the same argument when it came to Scotrail, but we have just seen the Welsh government nationalise their rail operator.

“The majority shareholder of EDF is the French government. The Scottish Government should do the same here with a national energy company and majority shareholdings in firms like BiFab. There is an enormous amount of potential in the number of wind energy contracts coming, and we need to make sure Scotland is ready to fulfil that potential.

“The transition to green energy must come with a jobs guarantee, not leave our communities behind. The minister is right that contracts for difference is reserved, but there is a lot the Scottish Government can do.”

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Responding to the Scottish Government Ministerial Statement on BiFab joint trade union secretaries Gary Smith and Pat Rafferty said: “Today’s statement amounts to little more than an attempt to deflect from the Scottish Government’s role in BiFab’s predicament, rather than providing accountability and a way forward for the workers’ and communities dependent on these yards.

“The legal advice given to the Minister concerning the withdrawal of guarantees for the NnG contract can and should be released, it is a matter of public interest because any credible hopes of kick-starting the much touted “green jobs recovery” depend on it.”

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan questioned the Scottish Government on the use of the Arnish fabrication yard in the Isle of Lewis.

The islands MSP asked Fiona Hyslop, whether Arnish could be utilised by other companies who could bring work the yard.

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BiFab, which owns the Arnish fabrication yard, has been put into difficulty in recent months after missing out on a contract to manufacture jackets for the Seagreen offshore wind farm, and having an existing bid to manufacture jackets for the Neart na Gaoithe offshore wind farm project thrown into doubt.

Speaking after a Ministerial statement on BiFab, Alasdair commented: “One of the key asks for the Action for Arnish campaign is that the yard be available to any company that can bring work into it.

“We need to keep an open mind about what the future holds for Arnish, and the widest possible range of uses there could be for the yard. It is right that the Scottish Government is open to exploring all options on this.

“While the Scottish Government has hit a legal threshold in terms of how much more it can invest as a minority shareholder in the company, I am frustrated at the lack of investment from JV Driver – the majority shareholder.

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“Arnish deserves a future, and if work cannot be brought in under BiFab then, as I asked the Scottish Government earlier today, we need other companies to be able to use it.”

The government has pumped more than £50m into the company, which has two yards in Fife and one near Stornoway.

But Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop told MSPs the firm was in a weakened state and that state aid rules prevented any more public money being spent on it.

Unions responded by saying that this was an effort to “deflect” and not take accountability.

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And opposition parties said ministers had “let down the workers” of BiFab.

However, it recently withdrew a £30m guarantee from the company’s bid for work manufacturing parts for offshore wind farms, citing state subsidy rules - which effectively ended hopes of creating 450 jobs.

She told MSPs that “the Scottish government cannot currently legally continue to financially provide more support to BiFab”.

She said: “My conclusion is based on a range of facts including the current position of the business, its trading forecasts, its prospects for future work and the continued ‘no risk’ position of the majority shareholder.

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“For financial support to be legal, it needs to be in line with the market economy investment principle.

“We can only act as a commercial investor would.

“If the majority shareholder is not prepared to invest in the business, then it is hard to demonstrate that another commercial investor would.”

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