The collapse of Fife manufacturer Bifab should herald a “moratorium” on new offshore wind contracts, Labour and SNP MSPs say.
Mid Scotland and Fife Labour member Alex Rowley and SNP representative for Uddingston and Bellshill Richard Lyle agreed there should be a pause on awarding contracts to developers wanting to take advantage of the country’s “excellent” natural resources but which cannot guarantee a benefit for the country’s manufacturing supply chain.
Bifab plunged into administration earlier this month after the Scottish and UK governments said they could no longer “legally” offer the firm further financial support.
Investigations by the Holyrood economy committee discovered companies including SSE and EDF were not choosing Scottish construction firms for offshore work because they had to pick cheaper options from overseas.
Under the contracts for difference, cited by developers, the least expensive option “must be used” to make the cost of energy for consumers the most affordable.
This, they said, meant they had “no choice” but to opt for manufacturers in the Far East and Asia to build materials for projects like the NnG and Seagreen wind turbine farms.
Mr Rowley said it is “completely unacceptable” and added the decision on jobs would be “in the hands of those developers and our ability to beg them for the crumbs”.
During Tuesday’s meeting of the committee, he asked: “Should we not be bringing forward a moratorium on all these developments until we can actually sort that out?”
Crown Estate Scotland is in control of the leasing of seabed in Scottish waters for offshore wind farm developments.
Simon Hodge, its chief executive, said: “We have worked hard to create a context and an opportunity for developers to make a commitment to the Scottish supply chain, to demonstrate how they can work in collaboration, including through the Scottish Offshore Wind Energy Council, to achieve those ambitions of the offshore wind sector deal to play their part in helping to develop a successful supply chain in Scotland.”
He added: “The bidding process is live at the moment and developers are actively working up their bids.
“The bid process is not yet concluded and until that process is concluded then theoretically the process could be halted but there may well be legal challenge and that level of challenge would increase as we move through the stages of the leasing process.”
Nation being ‘let down’
Mr Hodge confirmed the amount of work given to the supply chain cannot be a “material consideration” when bids are being assessed.
Mr Lyle said Scotland is being “let down” and “ripped off” by “state aid technicalities”.
He said: “Most people feel we’ve been getting ripped off for far too long and I, along with Alex Rowley, agree that something has to be done.
“What are we going to do about it? Are we going to take on board what Mr Rowley is saying? I for one agree with him.”