Anger at statement
Hyslop ‘deflecting’ failure to help BiFab say unions
BiFab workers have campaigned to save jobs (pic: Terry Murden)
Trade unions have accused the Scottish government of deflecting criticism of its role in the crisis at the Bifab engineering yards.
In a statement to MSPs, Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop expressed disappointment that the yards’ owner JV Driver failed to invest in the business.
The Canadian firm JV Driver took total control for just £1, since when the government invested an initial £37.4m, all of it converted to equity and due to be worthless if the company is liquidated.
Ms Hyslop said the Scottish Government wanted to support BiFab, but “we can’t”, citing state aid rules.
She insisted that the government “will leave no stone unturned. We will explore all options”, but said the Scottish government has now pumped more than £50m into the company, which has two yards in Fife and one near Stornoway. The government was prevented by state aid rules from providing financial support indefinitely, she said.
“We can only act as a commercial investor would,” she said. “If the majority shareholder is not prepared to invest in the business, then it is hard to demonstrate that another commercial investor would.”
But already a legal action is looming as unions and campaigners claim the government could have done more and has withheld documents relating to its decision to withdraw a £30m guarantee that would have secured a turbine contract with SSE for the NnG wind farm.
In a joint statement issued after Ms Hyslop’s address, BiFab joint trade union secretaries Gary Smith and Pat Rafferty said: “Today’s statement amounts to little more than an attempt to deflect from the Scottish Government’s role in BiFab’s predicament, rather than providing accountability and a way forward for the workers’ and communities dependent on these yards.
“The legal advice given to the Minister concerning the withdrawal of guarantees for the NnG contract can and should be released, it is a matter of public interest because any credible hopes of kick-starting the much touted “green jobs recovery” depend on it.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “The Economy Secretary’s statement is nothing more than a long list of excuses which will provide no comfort for the Bifab workers who were promised so much and after the SNP Government had boasted a short time ago that they had saved the company.
“Work is already underway on wind farms off the Fife coast so it’s too late to blandly claim to be exploring all options.
“The SNP Government should be honest with people that they have missed the opportunity to create these jobs for Scotland.”