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BiFab: Firm’s future unclear amid UK Government talks

The UK Government has said it is still in discussions with Bifab and the Scottish Government to prevent the company’s complete collapse.

Last week Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop announced no further financial support would be forthcoming from the Scottish Government for the stricken yard, while placing the blame on EU state aid rules.

Scotland will leave the EU fully on January 1 2021.

Opposition politicians accused the SNP government of abandoning the workers at sites in Methil, Burntisland and Lewis.

As well as claiming EU law barred any further intervention, Ms Hyslop said the blame for the potential collapse of the operation was on SSE not awarding the Seagreen contract to the yard, inaction by majority owner JV Driver and the UK Government’s contracts for difference legislation.

The UK minister for business, energy and clean growth, Kwasi Kwarteng, would not say whether the government would intervene fully to save the company.

Labour asks for UK intervention

On Tuesday the issue at Bifab was raised during topical questions in Westminster.

Shadow minister for climate change Matthew Pennycook raised the “plight” of the BiFab engineering yards in Fife and Lewis, calling on the UK Government to “step in” and safeguard these vital jobs in Scotland.

He said: “If we’re to sustain public support for the goal of net zero, it’s essential that we maximise the benefits of the green transition here at home, but there are far too many examples of where the promise of that green transition risks not being realised.

Bifab’s Methil Yard.

“One such case is the plight of the BiFab engineering yards in Fife and Lewis, which represents a clear failure to utilise industrial strategy to ensure that British firms win work and sustain decent jobs from the billions of pounds being invested in offshore wind installations just a few miles off the Scottish coast.

“Citing state aid rules, the SNP Scottish Government appear content to sit back and let the steel jackets in question be manufactured overseas.

“Can the minister give a commitment today that the UK Government will step in and safeguard the future of mounting fabrication in the UK and these vital 450 Scottish jobs?”

Speaking with the company

Minister for business, energy and clean growth Kwasi Kwarteng replied: “(He) will know that we’re absolutely committed to maintaining a UK supply chain for the extra deployment of offshore wind that I’ve alluded to earlier.

Kwasi Kwarteng MP.

“With regard to this specific issue, we are in conversations with counterparts in Scotland and also speaking to people in the company as well.”

‘Learn the lessons from BiFab’

GMB Scotland organiser Hazel Nolan said: “Politicians can’t afford to repeat the mistakes of the last decade, the promises of “green jobs revolutions” and “just transitions” while the jobs of the future are exported to the rest of the world.

“Learn the lessons from BiFab – 10 years ago Scotland was taken in by talk of a “Saudi Arabia of Renewables” and 28,000 full-time jobs in offshore wind but today supply chain yards lie mothballed because of a failure to properly plan, invest and support the sector.

“Tens of thousands of GMB members across the energy sector are watching closely, they don’t want to hear about promises of jam tomorrow while politicians promote the discontinuation of their existing jobs and industries with no credible Plan B in place.”

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