Scotland must not let chance to create world-leading renewable energy industry slip through its fingers – Scotsman comment

The struggles of the former BiFab yard in Fife have become emblematic of Scotland's stumbling efforts to fulfil its potential to become what has been described as the “Saudi Arabia of renewables”.

The phrase, once used by former First Minister Alex Salmond, was re-purposed by Boris Johnson when he said: “As Saudi Arabia is to oil, the UK is to wind – a place of almost limitless resource… we've got huge, huge gusts of wind going around the north of our country – Scotland."

The scale of the prize was more prosaically explained in a 2018 Scotttish government report, which noted this country has an estimated 25 per cent of Europe’s offshore wind resources.

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“Exploiting offshore wind technology… will enable Scotland to lead the world in the transition to a low-carbon economy over the next four decades and will help meet Scotland’s wider objectives on climate change, generating substantial new economic activity, jobs and prosperity potential for Scotland,” it added.

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Almost 300 jobs to be created as Fife yard owners sign new contract

The current size of the renewable sector – estimated at £3.3 billion in added value to the economy in 2018, compared to £11.6 billion from oil and gas – is not to be sniffed at.

And yesterday’s announcement that the former BiFab yard in Methil, now owned by Harland &Wolff, had won a contract to build eight wind-turbine foundation jackets, creating some 290 jobs, is unquestionably good news. However, the fact it was recently bought out of administration tells its own story.

Scotland has a long way to go to create a truly world-leading renewable energy industry.

The former BiFab yard in Methil, now owned by Harland & Wolff, has won a contract for work on the Neart na Gaoithe offshore wind farm (Picture: PA)

While Unite Scotland and GMB Scotland welcomed the new jobs in Methil in a joint statement, the unions pointedly called for an industrial plan for Scotland’s future, saying it was “the vital ingredient that has been missing since devolution and we can't succeed without it”.

It seems clear that the UK and Scottish governments, renewable firms and also North Sea oil companies – whose expertise in offshore heavy engineering is surely a resource that cannot be allowed to go to waste – must work together to ensure the golden future on offer does not turn into a mirage.

The risk is not that Scotland’s renewable energy resources will be left untapped, but that other countries will benefit from the jobs and profits they will undoubtedly create.

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