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‘Industrial wasteland’: Willie Rennie slates Scottish Government over BiFab

BiFab contract
BiFab, Arnish BiFab's Arnish yard on the Isle of Lewis.

It seems unlikely the eight jackets scheduled for construction by Bifab will be completed in Scotland.

Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop provided an update to the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday regarding Bifab’s future.

The company has slipped into administration after the Scottish and UK governments announced it would no longer be able to offer any more “legal” financial support.

Bifab’s Methil Yard.

Bifab had been contracted to build structures for the Neart na Gaoithe (NnG) offshore project by Siapem.

Ms Hyslop said she had written to Siapem on two occasions recently, “expressing” her hope the NnG contract for the eight jackets could still be completed in Scotland. She added she was aware, however, the company had gone “overseas”

Calls for response

North East Fife MSP Willie Rennie questioned Ms Hyslop about what the company had said to her in response.

Ms Hyslop answered: “In relation to the EDF discussion, because obviously it is the developer and Siapem has won the contract, that was a very early discussion.

“On securing the jobs — again, this has not been touched by anybody — there is a very welcome and probably overdue consultation by the UK Government on contracts for difference. The deadline for that is January, and it is important that there is a dramatic change in those issues, in terms of what they relay.

“Why is that important? We have important improvements in the statement of procurement or supply statement that is part of the ScotWind leasing, but we understand that those that are applying for the ScotWind leases will also want to apply for contracts for difference.

“There will be a real opportunity if the UK Government changes the contract for difference so that, instead of being a race to the bottom on price, it enables supply chain development in Scotland.

Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work and Culture giving a ministerial statement about BiFab at the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood.

“If that happens, the jobs that I and the government have been talking about, which are already being secured by some of the other investments that we have been talking about, can actually be realised.

“Until such times as the contract for difference changes, there will be a hamstrung situation.

“If the member has looked at the evidence that has been given to the Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee by the industry — by EDF, JV Driver and other witnesses — he will know that the key to unlocking job opportunities is a change to the contract for difference.

“There is a possibility of that, and it would be very welcome if this Parliament could collectively ensure that the UK Government has a strong understanding of the vital importance of changing the provisions in the contract for difference.”

‘Embarrassed by the truth’

Following the statement, Lib Dem leader Mr Rennie said: “The Economy Secretary went off script on her statement because she’s embarrassed by the truth. This government is giving up on BiFab’s chance at the NnG contract and it adds insult to injury to a massively mistreated firm.

Willie Rennie

“The SNP Government’s incompetence in this field has left an industrial wasteland. Ministers seem resigned to failure but I’m not content with that lax attitude.

“EDF and Siapem must be called to Parliament to set out their plans to build the NnG jackets and whether they will build them in Scottish yards.”

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