Rescued BiFab yards need action to secure Scottish wind farm work

The Scottish Government will work with the new owners of BiFab to help forge a "new future" for two yards bought over, the economy secretary has said.
Two of the BiFab yards have been purchasedTwo of the BiFab yards have been purchased
Two of the BiFab yards have been purchased

Fiona Hyslop said ministers would work to secure the "best possible outcome" for the former BiFab yard in Burntisland that was not part of the sale. The Arnish and Methil yards have both been taken over by London-based firm InfraStrata in a reported £850,000 deal.

Unions and political opponents say action is needed to ensure the yards do not miss out on lucrative contracts to build wind farms off the coast of Scotland that have previously gone to the Far East.

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The yards will again seek to win contracts for offshore wind projects and shipbuilding.

Ms Hyslop said: “This is a welcome development for the future of the workforce. The Scottish Government’s priority has been to support BiFab’s workers and I welcome the announcement that a buyer has been found.

“The workforce has an important role to play in the future of manufacturing in Scotland and I look forward to working with the new owner as it forges a new future for the company.

“This is also welcome news for the local communities in Fife and the Western Isles. The Scottish Government will also engage with Forth Ports, the owner of the Burntisland yard, to help secure the best possible outcome for that yard.”

There are plans for future wind farms to be located off the coast of Scotland, but the failure of BiFab to secure such work previously led to the demise of the yards under majority owner DF Barnes.

Unite Scotland secretary Pat Rafferty and GMB Scotland secretary Gary Smith said in a joint statement the yards were "uniquely placed" to capture the benefits of the offshore wind sector.

But the statement said: "The story so far has been one of government failure – thousands of jobs and billions of pounds have been outsourced around the world when Scottish communities should have been benefitting from these contracts. Now the Scottish and UK governments have been given a reprieve and they need to step-up and support the new ownership.

“We urgently need an overhaul of the Contracts for Difference process to ensure local supply clauses are in-built at the outset of major contracts as part of a proper industrial and investment plan for the sector, otherwise the green jobs revolution will remain a fantasy.”

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Scottish Conservative Finance spokesman Murdo Fraser called for "concrete" plans which show the way ahead for the yards.

“The news that two of the Bifab sites have been bought out of administration will bring hope to workers who suffered devastating news before Christmas," he said.

“We must see concrete plans from the new investors that will deliver on the potential this company has to secure jobs and sustainable long-term growth.

“The SNP Government have squandered far too much public money previously with their atrocious mismanagement of the operations at these yards. They can’t hide from their failures to be transparent and accountable over funding that was given out.

“The SNP must also urgently engage with the new investors to make BiFab fully competitive. We simply cannot see SNP ministers let down this company and workers again.”

Labour economy spokesperson Alex Rowley said the takeover was testament to the workers and unions who "fought tirelessly" to save jobs.

“It is of the upmost importance that the new employers engage with the trade unions and ensure that Fair Work values underpin the futures of the sites," he said.

“Scottish Labour will continue to fight shoulder to shoulder with the workforce for the high-skill, high-pay jobs that Scotland so badly needs. We also believe the yard at Burntisland has a future and will work to get that yard up and running as well.

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“The SNP’s mismanagement of our manufacturing base cannot be overstated and the damage done to so many communities across Scotland is plain for all to see.

“Scottish Labour urges both the UK and Scottish governments to work together and support the sector to develop the jobs that we need to kick-start the economy and ensure a fair transition to green energy.”

Scottish Greens Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Mark Ruskell said: “Scotland’s renewables potential is massive and I’m glad that Interstrata plc mentioned this in its statement, but we will need to see the detail of this acquisition before we know if this is good news for workers in Methil.

"It is very disappointing that the Burntisland yard still faces an uncertain future.

“Scottish Greens will continue to press the Scottish Government to take a bigger stake in Scotland’s renewables pipeline with direct public investment.”

Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: "The purchase of the BiFab assets at Methil and Arnish could be good news for workers, but we need to be cautious until we see the full plans, investment and commitment from the new owners Infrastrata.

"Given sight of those plans we, of course, stand ready to support the recovery and growth of these infrastructure assets.

“The potential is great with all the new wind farms on the verge of construction off the shores of Scotland, but the yards need significant investment to make them competitive with yards from the Far East.

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"And the questions from the Scottish Government remain. Just how much of its £52.4 million investment in BiFab will be recouped as a result of this sale? The BiFab saga has been yet another example of the Scottish Government’s cack-handed management of a company that had so much potential squandered."

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