By Martin Williams, Senior News Reporter
More action is needed to end renewables market “chaos” which is
increasingly placing Scotland’s green energy revolution in foreign hands,
according to Unite trade union.
Unite, one of the country’s biggest unions, says steps must be taken to
regain control of the sector.
The call comes after the Scottish Government’s economic and community
development agency, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), moved three
years ago to offload the taxpayer’s 19 per cent stake in Argyll firm Wind
Towers (Scotland) – which owns the UK’s only facility for manufacturing
wind towers – to South Korean-based CS Wind, which took over operations.
CS Wind papers seen by The Herald also show that a £461,920 taxpayerfunded
loan from HIE was also waived.
The base at Machrihanish now faces the loss of 73 of its 94 staff three
years after the sale despite pre-tax profits of £7.1 million last year.
The Scottish Government is currently aiming to reduce greenhouse gas
emissions by 75% over the next 10 years as Scotland bids to become
“net-zero” by 2045.
Unite’s Scottish secretary, Pat Rafferty, says urgent action is needed
because a “smorgasbord” of multinational interests is now “calling the
shots” in the sector in Scotland.
The union’s regional industrial officer, Charlie McDonald, said: “The
workforce in Scotland is ideally placed to carry out the work that needs
done… yet Scottish workers continually lose out to foreign firms time and
“We welcome any opportunity to work with the Government and employers to
avoid job losses in the renewables sector, but the talking must result in
actions that save jobs.”
Unite has been at the forefront of campaigning for Scottish facilities and
factories, including the Burntisland Fabrications (BiFab) yards in Arnish
and Fife to benefit from the “green manufacturing revolution”.
BiFab, which builds large-scale plant for the oil industry as well as
platforms for offshore wind turbines and tidal generators, is now
BiFab, which employs around 1,400 workers was rescued from the brink of
administration by the Scottish Government with a loan valued at £37.4m by
the end of March, 2019, but then was purchased by Canadian firm DF Barnes
last April, although hundreds of jobs were shed. The workforce is now
estimated to then stand at just 115.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said described the sale as a “key
milestone”, adding that, as a sign of commitment, the Scottish Government
would maintain a “minority shareholding in the company”.
However, in April, BiFab missed out on key work on a Kincardine offshore
development that was awarded to Navantia, which is owned by the Spanish
government and has debts of €350 million.
The award was made by procurement firm Cobra Wind, which is controlled by a
firm based in Madrid.
The deal prompted MSPs to call for firms who flout state aid rules to be
banned from tendering.
There are also fears BiFab may lose out on a “lifeline” contract at the £2
billion Neart Na Gaoithe (NnG) windfarm off the Fife coast, being awarded
by EDF, the French state energy giant.
The development was expected to create 500 jobs but most of its 53 turbine
jackets may well be built in Indonesia by contractor Saipem.
Neart Na Gaoithe, off Scotland’s east coast, received a Contract for
Difference subsidy deal from the UK government in 2015 at £114.39 per
megawatt hour (€140/MWh), in 2012 prices.
EDF which bought over the NnG project last year, is reportedly set to make
£130 million a year from the wind farm, which will provide power for up to
Meanwhile BiFab was again overlooked as Belgian procurement firm GeoSea DEM
awarded multi-million pound contracts for 100 turbines jackets to the
United Arab Emirates fabricators Lamprell, and Belgian steel constructors
Smulders for the Moray East 950MW offshore wind farm.
It was believed Smulders was to subcontract their work to yards in Belgium,
Spain and the north-east of England.
In March, the Scottish Government vowed to convene a summit after issues
over fairness were exposed in that contract procurement process.
BiFab won a £26.5 million deal for the manufacture of 100 pin piles in March.
It is undertood some of the steel structures built by Bifab have been take
out to the Moray East Offshore Wind Farm Est, which is a joint venture
company ultimately controlled by Madrid-headquartered EDP Renewables.
Mr McDonald added: “Decisions such as those made by CS Wind, who are making
skilled workers redundant at the UK’s only facility manufacturing onshore
and offshore wind towers, as well as those made at Bifab, to transport wind
turbines halfway around the world, appear to be contradictory to the
Scottish Government’s ambitious climate change targets. The irony of this
isn’t lost on us.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We continue to call upon the UK
Government to consider how the Contract for Difference process can be
restructured to consider the value added to the UK supply chain and
encourage wider use of the UK supply chain.”
Gavin MacKay, head of energy industries with HIE, said: “CS Wind have
invested significantly in the facility, which is on a par with the most
efficient operations globally. We are working with the company, governments
and industry to help develop a solution to their production gap that would
help sustain CSW’s successful operation in Argyll.”