Brian Wilson: Scotland set to miss out on renewable revolution – again

Failure to turn vast sums of UK consumer susbsidies for onshore windfarms into a substantial Scottish industry was a disaster over the past decade or so.

Hagshaw Hill in Lanarkshire became Scotlands first windfarm in 1996 (Picture: Allan Milligan)

Now something worse is happening. In spite of many years’ notice, the same thing is happening with offshore wind, which had even greater potential due to the huge scale of the projects.

The Moray Firth East windfarm’s French owners have delegated procurement to the Belgian firm, GeoSea, which awarded half the main contract to a state-dependent outfit in the UAE and look set to give the rest to another Belgian partner, Smulders.

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BiFab in Fife are still fighting for crumbs from a £2.6 billion project. The Arnish yard in Lewis – which benefited from public investment long ago – will reopen with 60 jobs which serves to confirm the scale of what is being missed out on elsewhere.

BiFab was taken over last year by the Candian firm, DF Barnes, who were assured of Scottish Government support to win offshore wind orders for Methil and Burntisland. They are now frustrated and disappointed by the failure to deliver.

Meanwhile, a major order for the Spanish-owned Kincardine offshore windfarm has gone to a state-subsidised Spanish yard. Again, Scotland is left to fight for the crumbs.

As one union leader observed: “All Salmond’s piss and wind about the Saudi Arabia of renewables hasn’t created a single job.” There needs to be an urgent inquest into why this has happened – again – and how much can be salvaged.

Incidentally, those who can see no wrong in the EU might consider the role its procurement rules have played in this whole debacle. On current projections, Scotland might get five per cent of the available work – if we’re lucky.