Renewed anger over the Arnish debacle

The Arnish fabrication yard.The Arnish fabrication yard.
The Arnish fabrication yard.
There was a simmering resentment before, but which has now boiled over into pure unadulterated anger!

The hope of a deal between BiFab and EDF for the manufacture of eight turbine jackets to support the Neart na Gaoithe (NnG) offshore wind project, has collapsed.

The latest news on BiFab’s failure to win work from vast offshore windfarms makes it even more essential that the Arnish yard is available to other users, according to the campaign group Action for Arnish.

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In a statement, the group said: “Once again, we are utterly dismayed to learn that not even the hoped-for crumbs of the Neart na Gaoithe cake will come to Scotland, far less to Arnish. The refusal of the Scottish Government to underwrite the contract is disappointing to say the least.

“We express solidarity and sympathy with the workforce in Fife who have again been failed badly. Even before this news, there was little expectation that any of the work would come to Arnish in the event of BiFab being successful.

“However, this outcome reinforces our view that the whole relationship involving the Scottish Government, HIE and BiFab must come under review and the first step towards that is to have transparency over the Arnish deal”.

The Action for Arnish statement continued: “There is no doubt that the Canadian company, DF Barnes, who took over BiFab at the request of the Scottish Government, feel badly let down. The promises made at that time were not delivered on and the necessary investment was not forthcoming.

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“Arnish has been a victim of this situation and is now completely marginalised without any prospect of work. It is time for complete openness about the deal with BiFab/DF Barnes and a clear statement from HIE and the Scottish Government that any firm which can bring work and investment to the yard will be welcomed rather than turned away”.

GMB Scotland Secretary Gary Smith and Unite Scotland Secretary Pat Rafferty said: “It looks like the Scottish Government Ministers have walked away from our best chance of building a meaningful offshore wind manufacturing sector, and in doing so has extinguished the hopes of communities in Fife and Lewis who were banking their future prosperity on it.

“It’s a scandalous end to a decade which started with promises of a “Saudi Arabia of Renewables” supporting 28,000 full-time jobs in offshore wind and now finishes in mothballed fabrication yards and no prospect of any contracts or jobs on the horizon.

“Both the First Minister and the Prime Minister promised a green jobs revolution but they didn’t tell anyone it would be exported, and it all amounts to broken promises to workers who needed these yards to be thriving instead of dying.

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“The fabrication contracts for NnG, just like those on the Seagreen project, will be manufactured by the rest of the world. Two projects worth a total of £5 billion, requiring 168 turbine jackets to power our future, and not even one will be built in Scotland – everyone needs to let that sink in.

“This is what political failure looks like and people are right to be absolutely furious.”

MSP Alasdair Allan commented: “The news over the jackets for Neart na Gaoithe is yet more bitter disappointment following BiFab missing out on work for SSE’s Seagreen offshore wind farm project last month.

“While it is little surprise to learn today that the Scottish Government, as minority shareholders in BiFab, have now invested as much money in the company as the law will allow, it brings into even sharper focus the predicament which Arnish faces.

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“I will be meeting with Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop and will ask her to set out what the options now are for the yard and its workforce, as they deserve to have a future at a time when there is work to be done in Scotland’s growing renewables sector.”

Local MP, Angus MacNeil also commented on the position, saying: “

Responding to the news that the Scottish Government has withdrawn assurances for the NnG jacket fabrication contract for BiFab, placing 500 jobs under threat, Scottish Greens energy spokesperson Mark Ruskell MSP said: “This decision makes a mockery of the Scottish Government’s commitments on green jobs and is a huge blow for communities in Fife and Scotland’s ambitions on renewable energy.

“Although energy policy is reserved, we have been clear ministers could use Crown Estate Scotland powers to ensure that leases for offshore wind are granted on condition of supporting jobs in the Scottish supply chain. The Scottish Government must not abandon these communities.”

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Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “Frankly ministers need to explain why they have not been able to fulfil their promise to workers in Lewis and Fife.

“It’s twelve years since the SNP declared that Scotland was going to be the Saudi Arabia of renewables. Instead we have seen contracts and jobs drift away overseas.

“They have been stringing people along for all this time when they should have been working on a plan for delivering these jobs and getting this work for Scotland.

The Comhairle were asked for a comment, but at the time of going to press we had received no response.

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