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Fiona Hyslop says ‘vote of confidence’ in north-east should help support Aberdeen Harbour expansion

The Aberdeen South harbour development at Bay of Nigg.
The Aberdeen South harbour development at Bay of Nigg.

Scotland’s Economy Secretary said she hopes the announcement of a new £62 million energy transition fund will “give confidence” to those working on the Aberdeen Harbour expansion project.

It was revealed earlier this week that the £350m Nigg Bay development’s principal contractor, Dragados UK, had pulled out of the project earlier than expected, following protracted discussions with Aberdeen Harbour Board over the best way forward.

It comes as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced a new multimillion-pound boost to the energy industry at the Scottish Government’s daily briefing on Friday, in which she said one of the projects receiving support would be the energy transition zone, a new business park planned adjacent to the Aberdeen South Harbour.

Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop said the Scottish Government “absolutely stands by” the Aberdeen South harbour project, adding that she was confident a new contractor would come forward to complete the remaining third of the project.

Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop speaking during Friday’s coronavirus briefing.

Speaking during Friday’s briefing, she said: “The Aberdeen Harbour expansion is really important as part of that infrastructure response for the north-east.

“There is concern about what has happened but we absolutely stand by our support for the Aberdeen harbour expansion and I hope that the announcement made today gives confidence to all of those that are involved in the work around that.

“I know it’s a challenge just now but I’m sure they can achieve another contractor in terms of doing that work.

“But I think that vote of confidence we have given today in the north-east should also help support Aberdeen Harbour expansion in their project work continuing and to make sure the investment, not just in the public sector but in the private sector, is given that steer about how important we see it and the opportunities that that expansion will bring to Aberdeen and the north-east.”

I know it’s a challenge just now but I’m sure they can achieve another contractor in terms of doing that work.”

Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop.

A letter from the harbour board’s chief executive, Michelle Handforth, to stakeholders, cites “significant challenges” the project is facing as a result of ferry, cruise and oil and gas operators reducing activity because of Covid-19 and the effect of low oil prices.

It also blames delays to the project because of coronavirus, which hindered construction of a number of key components including the South Breakwater during the summer season.

Dragados will officially withdraw from the site on Monday, with the harbour board taking on full responsibility.

A spokesman for the firm said last week that due to the Covid-19 emergency and “other factors” its involvement in the project has ended earlier than expected.

A procurement process for work required to complete the final 30% of the project is now under way.

North-east Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald.

North-east Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald, who recently wrote to the Scottish Government calling for it to continue to support the project, said: “I’m glad that Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop recognises the importance of the Aberdeen South Harbour Project and her words of support are encouraging.

“However, it’s important this is backed up with concrete measures as we move forward.”

Aberdeen Harbour Board has been contacted for comment.

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