Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has called for a “green industrial revolution” during a cross-party rally demanding the delivery of high quality jobs in Fife’s renewables sector.
Mr Corbyn, who was making his second visit to the region in just over two weeks, addressed activists following the ‘Ready for Renewal’ march in Kirkcaldy, which was organised by the Fife Trades Council with the support of the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC).
The event was arranged in response to the many challenges facing the region such as the loss of jobs at furniture makers Havelock, pay disputes at drinks giant Diageo and a lack of work at the BiFab yards in Methil and Burntisland.
The latter issue has particularly focused the minds after it was revealed French-owned electric utility company EDF plans to ship work in fabricating wind turbine jackets thousands of miles aboard to Indonesia, instead of building them in Fife yards which are just a mere 10 miles from the site of the proposed windfarm hosting the wind turbines.
“It really is not credible to say that it’s the right thing to do, to build facilities that will be used for the generation of electricity on windfarms in the near vicinity of – almost in sight of – the coast and you are dragging the manufactured parts to make these wind turbines 8,000 miles by sea with steel that’s probably come from 10,000 miles away,” Mr Corbyn said.
“Where is the sustainability in that?
“As a party we are working very hard on the principles of what I call a green industrial revolution.
“Think of the opportunities and the jobs that are there with a serious national UK strategy, and a serious Scotland strategy, for the development of renewable energy and the jobs that come with it.
“I’m here to demand that there be local investment, investment in the skill level we already have, but also in future that procurement policy is based on the socio-economic needs of communities not based on a very strange interpretation of EU law and EU directives.”
Mr Corbyn added his belief that there needed to be a proper industrial strategy put in place to avoid situations like that experienced by BiFab in recent years.
“You cannot move from crisis to crisis to crisis and deliver on a case by case basis,” he noted.
“You have to have a strategy overall which improves and strengthens the high-skilled industrial base that Scotland has always had.
“Should we have an election and move into government in the very near future, we will put in a national investment bank for the UK and we will properly fund – through the Barnett Formula – an investment bank in Scotland, because the skill levels and the industrial heritage that’s there doesn’t have to be a museum piece in the country.
“It has to be basis for future prosperity, good quality, well-paid, unionised jobs in the manufacturing sector in the country and I’m determined to play my part in that.”
Figures from across the political spectrum took part, including SNP MP Peter Grant, SNP co-leader of Fife Council David Alexander, Labour MSP Claire Baker, Green MSP Mark Ruskell and Annette Drylie and Tam Kirby from the Fife Trades Council.
Mr Ruskell said: “A Scottish Green New Deal means local jobs but it will also need free movement in the EU to be protected to grow the workforce.
“We can’t rely on the dead hand of the free market to grow jobs. Oil and gas companies will extract every last drop until production goes over the cliff and takes communities dependent on the jobs with it. That’s why we need a Scottish Green New Deal to plan now and ensure no workers are left behind.”
Trade unions and workers called on EDF, but also on energy giants Red Rock and SSE, who have won contracts for large windfarms on Scotland’s east coast, to step up and provide meaningful renewable contracts for the yards.
Grahame Smith, general secretary of the STUC, said: “Fife has a proud industrial history, and we must see this return in the form of renewable jobs.
“Renewable energy is one of the key ways we can stop the tide of climate change, and with the yards lying empty and the wind turbines sitting off the coast of Fife, it only makes sense to have the work carried out locally.
“There are workers standing ready to help deliver this work. Fife needs a real industrial strategy that will create the thousands of renewable jobs that have been promised over the years.
“We urge companies like EDF, SSE and Havelock to do the right thing and create jobs that will be good for the environment, good for workers and good for the local economy.”
Labour leader’s vow to avoid a no-deal Brexit
Mr Corbyn said he and opposition parties are determined to do all they can to prevent a damaging “no-deal crash out” from the European Union.
The Labour leader said that if the UK does leave with no-deal he is determined to hold the government to account to answer for their “irresponsible behaviour” over the last few days.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is legally bound to ask Brussels for an extension to Article 50 if he cannot get MPs to back a deal by October 19 after Parliament approved legislation designed to prevent a no-deal, but has said he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than ask for a delay.
This week he was forced to deny lying to the Queen in order to secure his five-week suspension to Parliament as the Halloween departure deadline looms.
Mr Corbyn said: “Opposition parties have worked very closely on this. We will do all we can to prevent that no-deal crash-out because of all the damage that will do to jobs, living standards, supply chains, food supplies and medicine supplies, and if it happens we’re absolutely determined to bring this government to account to make them answer for their irresponsible behaviour over the last few days.
“I personally, and my party, will have no truck with this sweetheart trade deal with the USA which would lead to intervention by American companies into our health service, into our public services.”