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Claims Fife is being ‘abandoned’ as wind turbine contract cut in half

Richard Leonard wants to see the jobs at the Methil fabrication yard protected.

The Scottish Government is being accused of “abandoning” fabrication yards after a contract to build wind turbine parts in Methil was cut back by half.

A contract was signed last year for eight wind turbine “jackets” – which support the overall structures – as part of an offshore wind farm in the Firth of Forth.

The £26.5 million contract was expected to support hundreds of jobs in the Fife yard and at its sister yard in Arnish on the Isle of Lewis.

The Scottish Government now says the contract has been reduced by 50% and is only worth £23m after the yard received a number of defective parts.

Former Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard says he feels the yard is being “abandoned”.

He called for more action to keep offshore fabrication for workers in Scotland.

‘Supply chain issues’

The Neart na Gaoithe wind farm in the Forth is expected to supply enough energy to power 375,000 homes and offset over 400,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions every year.

Harland and Wolff, which operates the former BiFab yard in Methil, signed the contract for eight wind turbine generator foundation jackets in April last year and work got under way three months later.

It was estimated the work would create around 290 direct and indirect Scottish jobs.

All 54 of the turbines for this wind farm are being assembled in the Port of Dundee. Lossiemouth-based company Inland and Coastal are designing and installing the harbour’s new pontoon.

An impression of the wind turbine jackets being made in Methil. Picture by Neart na Gaoithe.

However, Business Minister Ivan McKee says he understands the contract has now been reduced from eight wind turbine jackets to just four “due to supply chain issues with component parts”.

Mr McKee added: “Whilst the number of jackets has been reduced by 50%, I understand that this will only reduce the contract value by around 10%-15%.”

He also gave assurances 1,042 jobs will be created by Harland and Wolff over a five-year period, including 614 in Methil and 428 in Arnish.

‘They are being abandoned’

Speaking to The Stooshie politics podcast, Richard Leonard said he understands some of the work for these wind turbines is now being carried out in Indonesia.

He said: “There is a big offshore wind facility being developed 10 miles off the coast of Fife and we have learned that half the work that was going to be coming to Fife for that installation will now be carried out in Indonesia.

Richard Leonard MSP. Picture by Jane Barlow.

“These are highly prized jobs and yet it feels like they are being abandoned and are not getting the investment.

“We should be making sure these green jobs are in Scotland and not at the other side of the world.”

He added the government’s assertion there will be 1,000 jobs created in the two fabrication yards does not add up with what trade union representatives have told him.

He added: “The trade unions tell me these are miles away from where things are at the moment and the numbers in each yard is very small.”

Delays causing issues in Fife yard

Harland and Wolff said the project in Methil and Arnish has been plagued with unforeseen difficulties, which ultimately led to the contract being slashed in half.

In a report it said: “The project has encountered delays due to a number of client materials arriving late and being defective in nature rendering them incapable of being used.

“Both parties have recognised the difficulties in meeting the project schedules due to these problems.

The fabrication yard in Methil. Picture by Kenny Smith.

“Therefore, a new agreement has been reached which will involve de-scoping the contract from eight jackets to four jackets.”

It added the revised contract is now worth £23m.

Harland and Wolff said it expects to see a number of new contracts being agreed for both the Methil and Arnish yards in 2023, but said it hopes these will be smaller contracts worth between £4m and £10m.

More needs to be done for green jobs

Mr Leonard’s comments come after a jobs skills summit was held in Aberdeen to look at what needs to be done to give those who work in the oil and gas industry a job in renewables.

The Labour MSP said the government needs to do more to make sure the industry understands the “real transferability of skills”.

He said: “There’s been a massive haemorrhaging of jobs from Scotland and there is a mismatch between the rhetoric we hear from both governments and people’s everyday experiences.

“So many people I speak to who formerly worked in oil and gas have not landed a job in an equivalent sector like renewable offshore energy.

“There needs to be a plan put in place to retain these skills and keep these high-quality jobs.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “The Scottish Government has committed £2 billion in low carbon funding to invest in new measures to end Scotland’s contribution to climate change and create green jobs.

“Offshore wind is a huge opportunity for Scotland, and already £28bn of supply chain commitments have been made as part of the Scotwind process.

“We are also investing in initiatives like the just transition fund for the north-east and the green jobs fund to create and support green jobs.

“The recent offshore energy skills event also focused on how the sector can share views and insight, as well as encouraging greater collaboration and will help pinpoint where further action is needed.”