BiFab trade unions GMB and Unite have said a “level playing field” is needed if Scotland is to secure the large-scale manufacturing contracts from its own offshore renewables sector – and they are asking the First Minister and the Scottish Parliament to intervene.
The warning comes after lucrative contracts for the fabrication of turbine jackets and floating platforms from the Moray East and Kincardine offshore wind farm projects were awarded to firms in the UAE, Belgium and Spain, leaving BiFab yards in Fife empty handed.
Unions say that despite the best efforts of BiFab owners DF Barnes, the firm cannot realistically compete for major contracts on the basis of cost against European and international competitors who are heavily backed by state subsidies and sovereign wealth funds.
Union leaders have now pledged to write to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to ask what steps the Sottish Government have taken to ensure offshore developers commit to domestic manufacturing and for an inquiry to identify the barriers which have prevented Scottish based firms from capitalising on a renewable manufacturing bonanza.
And on the same day the UK Government launch a New Offshore Wind Sector Deal with aspirations of tripling employment in the sector, GMB and Unite say the empty yards in Fife are a sobering reminder of long-term political failure at both Holyrood and Westminster.
GMB Scotland Secretary Gary Smith and Unite Scotland Secretary Pat Rafferty said: “Ten years ago we were promised a ‘Saudi Arabia of Renewables’ but today we need political intervention to help level the playing field in Scottish offshore renewables manufacturing.
“The truth is that state funded European energy and engineering firms, backed by Far East finance and Middle East sovereign wealth funds, are carving-up thousands of jobs and billions of pounds from our renewables sector, and firms like BiFab are left fighting for scraps off our own table.
“That one hundred per cent of the manufacturing of the turbine jackets for Moray East and five platforms for Kincardine will be done in yards outside of Scotland is an absolute scandal. This cannot continue unchallenged.
“To working class communities in Burntisland and Methil there’s no ‘just transition’ or ‘green jobs revolution’ here, just a future that looks heavily rigged against their hopes for employment and prosperity.
“That’s the real cost of long-term political failure at all levels of government.
“The Scottish Government and the public have a stake in BiFab and with it our renewables manufacturing future; we owe it to our ourselves to tackle the spaghetti bowl of vested interest groups that’s dominating our renewables sector and to fight for Scotland’s share.”
The plea from unions comes after BiFab confirmed that up to 82 jobs would be created at its yard in Arnish on the Isle of Lewis thanks to a commission by GeoSea to produce pin piles worth up to £26.5m as part of the Moray East Offshore Windfarm development.
Conservative MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife Alexander Stewart said: “This news is of grave concern and any failure to place an order for these steel wind turbine jackets in Scotland would be an absolute disgrace.
“The order on which BiFab was pinning hopes of a return to production at Burntisland and Methil in Fife is for 100 steel jackets on which turbines will sit and are due to be placed off the east coast of Caithness.
“Granted that it is better news that work has started at BiFab’s facility in Arnish on a contract for Moray East to make 100 piles to anchor the turbine platforms on the seabed.
“But it is imperative that the plants in Burntisland and Methil are thrown a lifeline and the Scottish Government should be doing all it can to ensure this, especially as a result of its long-term investment in the company.
“Both the SNP Scottish government and the taxpayer have a stake in BiFab and by default, a say in our future of renewables manufacturing.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon welcomed that news but said work to secure further contracts for BiFab’s yards at Burntisland and Methil was ongoing.
“There is still a hard road ahead for BiFab but this is brilliant news for the Arnish yard and workforce,” she said.
“The Scottish Government is committed to doing everything we can to support similar progress for the Fife yards.”