Having followed BiFab’s struggles in recent months, and seen the passion of all those involved in the Ready for Renewal campaign calling for the delivery of good quality renewables jobs in Fife, the fact that French company EDF is apparently sending most of the work for constructing the jackets for the £2bn Neart na Gaoithe (NnG) windfarm overseas becomes all the more nonsensical.
This offshore windfarm will be fewer than 10 miles off the coast of Fife, virtually visible to folk standing on the foreshore on a clear day, yet the skilled BiFab workers based at Methil and Burntisland who have been desperate for work will miss out on most of it.
Instead, most of the jackets will be constructed 8,000 miles away in Indonesia using steel most likely sourced 10,000 miles away, and the structures will then be dragged by boat halfway across the world to be set up in situ. Hardly helping the fight against climate change.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not getting all parochial. I know how market forces work, and I know how competition works.
But if Fife has yards and a workforce ready and raring to go just a stone’s throw away from where the finished article will sit, one just wonders if Scotland is at a hugely critical crossroads when it comes to our renewables future.
This should have been a fantastic opportunity to get the BiFab yards busy again.
Instead, the wind turbines, when finished, could well sit as a permanent insult to local communities in Fife – taunting hard-working folk like the proverbial ‘here’s what you could have won’ in Bullseye.
There’s talk of BiFab yet being given contracts for eight of the 50-odd jackets, and that’s a thrown bone that I’m sure will be welcomed.
It’s not enough though.
In my opinion it’s only right and fair to expect that if such a development is on someone’s doorstep, the bulk of the benefits should therefore go to that person.
One might describe this as a scandal, but the fact the loopholes exist to allow this sort of thing to occur means companies like EDF are only doing what they consider best for business – not necessary what’s right.
Unless the Scottish and UK government intervene in some shape or form to ensure proportions of future contracts are awarded to Scottish firms through specific contractual clauses, then this will happen again and again and again.