SNP ministers condemned over BiFab ‘failure’
Alex Rowley: ‘this vote is a wake-up call’ (pic: Terry Murden)
Just days after the SNP committed its future to a green jobs revolution, the party of government was dealt a punishing defeat in the Holyrood chamber for its failure to support a wind farm contract in Fife.
Opposition MSPs backed a Labour motion condemning the Scottish Government for its decision to withdraw a guarantee that would have secured work at the BiFab yards at Methil and Arnish in Lewis.
The motion was passed by just 61 votes to 60 and an amendment from the Tories calling on the Scottish Government to ensure “commitments on renewables are part of a coherent industrial strategy for the post-Covid-19 era” was passed by 61 votes to two, with 58 abstentions.
The £30m deal was for BiFab to manufacture eight wind turbine jackets at its yard in Methil, Fife, as part of the £2 billion Neart Na Gaoithe (NnG) project off the coast.
Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop insisted the government had exhausted options for rescuing the yard.
“We’ve explored a range of alternatives, including state ownership, but have concluded that there is no legally compliant way for us to do so,” she said.
Labour MSP Alex Rowley described for the Scottish Government to blame state aid, and JV Driver for a lack of funding were “red herrings”.
He said it cannot “sit back and allow the work of Scottish offshore renewables to go to countries in Asia”, where prices are driven down by low-cost labour, state-led investment and subsidies. He called for the legal advice that led to the government’s decision to be published.
After the debate Mr Rowley said: “This vote is a wake-up call to SNP ministers who have been found asleep at the wheel.
“It is crucial that the SNP government gets to work right away on the necessary remedial action to provide support for BiFab now and secure a long-term future for its yards.
“Workers and their unions must be at the heart of this. Parliament has spoken with a clear voice tonight, and sent a clear message to the SNP Government: we will not allow you to give up on the green jobs of Scotland’s future.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “If the reports are accurate that the government may lose over £52million it invested in BiFab it will mean each job cost £262,000 each, that’s over a quarter of a million pounds per temporary job.
“If we had paid £50,000 per year to each worker to sit at home and do nothing for the next five years we’d still have money left over.
“It is an astonishing waste of money but what is even more wasteful is the failed opportunity to bring economic opportunities for hundreds of people in Scotland.
“The government should publish the legal advice on state aid without delay and immediately contact EDF and Siapen to ensure those eight jackets can still be built here if we get our act together.”