Scottish firms miss out on work to build country’s wind farms

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Scots firms have hit out at the loss of lucrative wind farm contracts in projects north of the Border being lost to overseas firms.

The owner of the BiFab manufacturing yards has called for tighter regulations on offshore wind developers and manufacturers to help prevent it missing out on vital work.

DF Barnes acquired BiFab’s three yards – at Arnish on Lewis and Burntisland and Methil in Fife – last year in a Scottish Government-backed rescue package.

Previously, 1,400 people were employed across the sites, but there are now just 30 people employed in Fife and 85 in Arnish, up from the seven part-time jobs offered at the takeover.

BiFab director Bill Elkington told Holyrood’s economy committee that no bids for offshore wind contracts had been successful. On one main project, the Kincardine floating offshore wind development, his firm was outbid by Spanish state-owned firm Navantia.

It runs at a 35 per cent revenue loss and he questioned how this adhered to state aid rules. “Right now we’re quite concerned about competing against businesses that lose money,” Mr Elkington said.

He said Scottish taxpayers subsidised the UK Government’s Contract for Difference for offshore wind, which he said included commitments to a proportion of work being carried out in Scotland. But Mr Elkington said there was “nothing to hold [developers] to that”. Elsewhere companies are punished for breaching that type of commitment, with one developer in Canada fined 150 million Canadian dollars (£86.3 million).

Mr Elkington said: “Some of these projects, they are getting no direct benefit on the infrastructure. And that really is a travesty that needs to be addressed through either regulation or government intervention of some sort.”

GMB’s Peter Welsh said the Marine Scotland planning consent for the Kincardine project referred to a “commitment to the construction of substructures, which was expected to be undertaken within a Scottish port”.

Unite’s Pat Rafferty said: “We seem to be abiding by them [European laws], but it seems to be getting ignored by the Spanish and elsewhere.

“We were told ... about Scotland being the new Saudi Arabia for renewables.

“I think if we continue in the way that we are in terms of how these contracts are getting awarded, then we certainly are not going to be the Saudia Arabia of renewables. They will be getting built in Saudi Arabia and shipped across here.”