Hopes of saving BiFab and securing hundreds of jobs at its Fife yards are fading after more crunch talks failed to find a way forward, The Courier understands.
Sources close to DF Barnes – which took over the troubled manufacturer in 2018 – say the Canadian firm is growing increasingly frustrated over the impasse with the Scottish Government in relation to the lucrative Neart na Gaoithe (NnG) offshore wind farm contract, following the latest meeting between Fife Council representatives and economy secretary Fiona Hyslop.
While a deal which could see BiFab supply part of the project 15.5km off the Fife coast is not dead, time is now running out to find a breakthrough.
The major hurdle remains the withdrawal of a £30 million financial guarantee which would back the contract bid, with the Scottish Government saying EU state aid rules prevents it from providing more cash to the struggling yards in Burntisland and Methil.
Ms Hyslop has also criticised parent company JV Driver’s “continued lack of investment in the business”, while Fife Council SNP co-leader David Alexander said the firm should not allow the public purse to bear all the risk.
Following Friday’s meeting, the Scottish Government’s position appears further entrenched.
A spokesperson told The Courier: “The situation at Bifab is a culmination of a number of issues, the main one being the unwillingness of the parent company and majority shareholder JV Driver to provide working capital, investment or guarantees for the company.
“We are leaving no stone unturned in our search for a solution to the challenges faced by the business.
“As a minority shareholder, we have been exhaustive in our consideration of the options available to us to financially support BiFab from public funds.
“We will continue to do everything possible to support the business while recognising the need for us to remain in line with state aid regulations. We have also discussed with the UK Government what support they may be able to provide.”
Sources close to DF Barnes told The Courier the onus is on the Scottish Government to act.
“The Scottish Government agreed to be the primary investor of the business under the terms of their agreement with DF Barnes.
“It was the Scottish Government who invited DF Barnes to take over the company. They also agreed to provide the relevant NnG guarantee last year. The yards are not owned by BiFab.”
Fife Labour economy spokesperson Councillor Altany Craik, who was involved in Friday’s meeting, said: “Our communities are going to be punished for a strict adherence to a system that is going to change. I don’t think we should be abandoned to our fate.”