Concern over commitment

Demand for ‘level playing field’ as subsidised rivals win deals

Pat Rafferty

Pat Rafferty: ‘We were promised a ‘Saudi Arabia of Renewables’ (pic: Terry Murden)


Trade unions are furious that lucrative contracts for offshore wind farms have been awarded to overseas firms who are heavily supported by state subsidies.

The GMB at BiFab and Unite have today demanded a ‘level playing field’ if Scotland is to secure the large-scale manufacturing contracts from its own offshore renewables sector – and they are asking the First Minister and the Scottish Parliament to intervene.

Their call coincides with the launch of an initiative from UK Energy and Clean Growth Minister Claire Perry to support the UK supply chain in ensuring 30% of British power is generated by wind by 2030.

Ms Perry says it is the Government’s ambition to make the UK a global leader in renewables “with more investment potential than any other country in the world”. Industry will invest £250 million in the new Offshore Wind Growth Partnership.

But unions in Scotland says lucrative contracts for the fabrication of turbine jackets and floating platforms from the Moray East and Kincardine offshore wind farm projects were awarded to firms in the UAE, Belgium and Spain, leaving empty handed BiFab yards in Fife.

Unions say that despite the best efforts of BiFab owner DF Barnes – which yesterday announced a smaller contract for its Arnish yard – the firm “cannot realistically compete for major contracts on the basis of cost against European and international competitors who are heavily backed by state subsidies and sovereign wealth funds.”

Union leaders will write to the First Minister and the Convenor of the Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee, and ask what steps the Scottish Government have taken to ensure offshore developers commit to domestic manufacturing and for an inquiry to identify the barriers which have prevented Scottish based firms from capitalising on a renewable manufacturing bonanza.

On the same day the UK Government launches its offshore wind sector deal with aspirations of tripling employment in the sector, the GMB and Unite say the empty yards in Fife are a “sobering reminder of long-term political failure at both Holyrood and Westminster.”

GMB Scotland Secretary, Gary Smith and Unite Scotland Secretary Pat Rafferty said: “Ten years ago we were promised a ‘Saudi Arabia of Renewables’ but today we need political intervention to help level the playing field in Scottish offshore renewables manufacturing.

“The truth is that state funded European energy and engineering firms, backed by Far East finance and Middle East sovereign wealth funds, are carving-up thousands of jobs and billions of pounds from our renewables sector, and firms like BiFab are left fighting for scraps off our own table.

“That one hundred per cent of the manufacturing of the turbine jackets for Moray East and five platforms for Kincardine will be done in yards outside of Scotland is an absolute scandal.  This cannot continue unchallenged.”

“To working class communities in Burntisland and Methil there’s no ‘just transition’ or ‘green jobs revolution’ here, just a future that looks heavily rigged against their hopes for employment and prosperity. That’s the real cost of long-term political failure at all levels of government.”

“The Scottish Government and the public have a stake in BiFab and with it our renewables manufacturing future; we owe it to our ourselves to tackle the spaghetti bowl of vested interest groups that’s dominating our renewables sector and to fight for Scotland’s share.”

Commenting on the UK government’s initiative, Fabrice Leveque, senior policy manager at Scottish Renewables, said: “This sector deal is a major milestone for the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy, setting a clear path for offshore wind: one of ambition, optimism and innovation.

“That’s particularly true in Scotland, where the sector is building out again after delays which meant schemes in shallower waters further south powered ahead.

“The benefits that are being realised in places like Hull and Lowestoft are now starting to appear in Scotland’s coastal towns and cities like Wick and Invergordon, heralding a new, sustainable energy future from the seas.

“With the support of government both at Westminster and in Edinburgh we, as an industry, can work together, as set out in this sector deal, to help ensure offshore wind’s benefits are felt across the country for decades to come.”

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