A ROW has broken out over claims a Scottish steelworks may have missed out to China and Europe on a contract for the new Forth Bridge.
The Community trade union, which represents the majority of Scottish steelworkers, claimed Scottish Government agency Transport Scotland had been “disingenuous” when it said last week that no Scottish firms had bid to supply the steel for the crossing.
The union said Tata Steel’s Dalzell steelworks in Motherwell had been part of a consortium initially involved in bidding for the tender, although Transport Scotland indicated that the firm may be talking about different contracts.
Community general secretary Michael Leahy has written to Mr Salmond, calling for a halt to the project while a review of the procurement process is carried out.
Alex Salmond said he would be “glad to arrange a ministerial meeting” when questioned about the issue by Motherwell and Wishaw MSP John Pentland in Holyrood yesterday.
But Mr Leahy said last night: “The First Minister had the opportunity to tell the people of Scotland why no Scottish steel worker will benefit from the project. This is very bad news for manufacturing in Scotland.
“I call again on the First Minister to halt the decision while a review of the whole procurement process takes place.”
Pat Donnely, Community’s Scottish Executive member, said: “As a steel worker for over 40 years I am shocked and dismayed by Mr Salmond’s decision. It does not bode well for the future when our own government can turn its back on the industry.”
The bridge will include 24,500 tonnes of steel from Shanghai, 8,500 tonnes from Seville in Spain and 4,200 tonnes from Gdansk in Poland.
A spokesman for Tata said last night: “Tata Steel can confirm that it did participate indirectly in the tendering process for the Forth Bridge contracts and that its Dalzell works is capable of supplying a significant proportion of the steel required.”
Labour said if it was the case a Scottish company was involved in bidding for the steel work but was turned down, contrary to claims from the Scottish Government, then that was “a deeply concerning matter” and serious questions would need to be raised.
Mid Scotland and Fife Labour MSP John Park said: “Almost four years ago I warned that unless the procurement process was spot on, companies from Scotland and the rest of the UK would lose out on jobs and investment. The test for the consortium building the bridge is to ensure that Scottish workers get jobs, training and apprenticeship opportunities from this huge project.”
But a Transport Scotland spokeswoman said: “The reality is that Scottish firms simply did not bid for the fabrication of steel for the Forth Replacement Crossing. The award of recent steel supply contracts for the FRC was for structural steelwork fabricators and not the manufacture of raw steel.
“It is the responsibility of the structural steelwork fabricators to source the steel required from the raw steel makers that meets the contract specifications. No Scottish structural steelwork fabricators bid for the work.
“Transport Minister Keith Brown will, of course, be happy to meet with the chief executive of Tata to discuss the issue.”