Union bosses have criticised Scottish Secretary Alister Jack after he suggested wind turbine components being built in Indonesia for Scottish sites was the market economy at work.
The £2 billion Neart Na Gaoithe (NnG) project off the Fife coast is set to be one of the country’s biggest renewable projects, but it’s still not clear if Scotland will get a key cut of the contract.
There are suggestions that just eight of the jackets for the turbines might be built in Scotland while the rest are constructed in south-east Asia.
Mr Jack was asked by his Labour opposite number, Tony Lloyd, what guarantees he could give that “jobs will be created for people in Scotland and not people in Indonesia”.
He responded: “Well that is the market economy and we need to be better at pricing and better at producing our turbines and that’s the straight answer.
“But I don’t dispute with him with him bringing turbines from Indonesia is not the answer. We need to find a better way of efficiently delivering them in the UK.”
The comments have drawn criticism from unions, who branded Mr Jack’s remarks as “callous”.
STUC General Secretary Grahame Smith said: “Workers in Scotland’s fabrication yards are losing out on work that is being shipped from tax-free zones in Indonesia.
“It is both callous and stupid to brush away concerns from workers and local communities with a blasé reference to the market economy. Markets don’t just happen, they are created and regulated by Government and they need Government intervention to function effectively.”
GMB Scotland organiser Hazel Nolan added: “Mr Jack has unwittingly revealed the truth: the UK government has washed their hands of their responsibility to deliver renewables jobs here in the UK.
“Far from ‘the market economy at work’, what we are seeing is yards here in the UK being abandoned by our government and left to compete with heavily state subsidised yards abroad.”
Former Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael also hit out at the comments, saying: “His comments show that the Tories never learn from their mistakes. In the 1980s, they refused to support the development of wind turbines for exactly the same reasons that Alister Jack explains today – they were prepared to leave it to the market.
“Wave and tidal power have now reached the same point and again need Government support. If they do not get it from this country then they will go elsewhere. Good quality manufacturing jobs will be lost again due to Tory dogma.”
Responding to the criticism, a UK Government spokesperson said: “The Secretary of State made clear that the UK Government is wholly committed to supporting Scotland’s renewables sector, and that importing turbines from Indonesia is not an acceptable long-term solution. To suggest that he dismissed concerns is simply misleading.”
Matthieu Hue, CEO of EDF Renewables UK, said: “We don’t recognise many of the statistics being quoted here.
“However, only this week, we have outlined details of four supply chain events to be held in Scotland at which Scottish companies will be introduced to the Tier 1 contractors for Neart na Gaoithe. We are committed to generating as much work as possible here in Scotland. The full extent of the benefit to the Scottish supply chain will become clear once all Tier 2 and Tier 3 contracts have been awarded.”