Union fury at ‘paltry’ Scottish turbine deal

The Burntisland yard of engineering company BiFab. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
The Burntisland yard of engineering company BiFab. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
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Union leaders have hit out at the “paltry” number of jobs going to Scottish workers after reports that a Fife manufacturing yard has landed a deal to build turbine parts for a £1.8 billion offshore wind farm in the outer Firth of Forth.

It is understood that Burntisland Fabrication (BiFab), which has two yards in Fife and one in Lewis, has landed a contract to provide foundation jackets for eight of the 53 turbines at the 450MW Neart Na Gaoithe (NnG) scheme.

It’s thought the work will create 200 jobs at the company’s Methil yard in Fife.

According to reports, the deal comes through Italian oil and gas contractor Saipem, which won the multi-million-pound contract to supply the jackets.

The remainder will be made at its base in Indonesia.

Officials from GMB and Unite Scotland have welcomed “desperately needed jobs” but criticised the level of work going to the Scottish facility.

In a statement, joint trade union secretaries Gary Smith and Pat Rafferty said: “The prospect of just eight turbine jackets coming to Fife while the vast majority are built in Indonesia is scandalous.

“This is a £2bn Scottish offshore wind project that will be largely delivered by cheap foreign labour and then shipped on diesel-burning barges to the Fife coast.

“The renewables lobby and every politician that has promised a green jobs revolution must be cringing.”

They say the deal will provide “a very small crumb of comfort to the local communities”.

BiFab was saved from the brink of administration by the Scottish Government in a £25 million agreement before being purchased by Canadian company DF Barnes in April.

The unions are calling for further investment in the yards and assurances that Scottish workers will benefit from other offshore wind projects in the pipeline.

A Scottish Government spokesman declined to comment on the “specifics” of the BiFab deal but said all parties are “working collaboratively”.

He added: “The Scottish Government is committed to doing everything within its devolved competence to increase Scottish content in offshore wind projects.”

A spokesman for wind farm owner EDF Renewables UK said: “We understand that the NnG project is seen as critical to securing more work for the yard and we are working hard to make that a reality. This is part of an ongoing procurement process and we will announce the outcome once this is completed.”

The 588MW Beatrice scheme, off the Caithness coast, is Scotland’s largest –and the world’s fourth-biggest – offshore wind farm.

Completed last month, the 84-turbine array can produce enough energy to power 450,000 homes each year.

A new report has estimated it will generate a total of £2.4 billion of value for the UK economy. Analysis shows it brought in £460 million to Scotland during the development and construction phases alone.