Pat Rafferty: Governments must set targets to protect renewables jobs
It was only last week that Unite welcomed the Scottish Government’s
intention to ensure that local and regional supply chains would benefit
from contracts in the renewables sector.
Representatives from the UK Government, trade unions and industry including
companies such as EDF, Deme Offshore, Saipem and SSE who stand to make tens
of millions from Scotland’s shores were all in attendance at the Edinburgh
To the Scottish Government’s credit the new commitment will now mean that
developers will have to agree on supply-chain commitments when applying for
offshore wind leases.
This is an important development which Unite welcomes and which we have
been campaigning for.
Such agreements are common place in other areas of the world such as
Newfoundland in Canada where clauses are inserted into contracts which
guarantee that substantial shares of project management, and the execution
of drilling and development for example are provided locally.
Several days later we now find out that American and Dutch owned companies
are the latest to be awarded work on the Neart na Gaoithe (NnG) contract
off the coast of Fife.
The vast majority of the construction work on the 54 jackets is likely to
go to Asia and then be transported back on barges to the east coast of
This is absolutely ludicrous when the Bifab yards in Fife and Arnish can do
significant volumes of work on the construction of jackets and piles beyond
the rumoured eight jackets being awarded by EDF.
In fact, Unite is growing deeply concerned about the details surrounding
the NnG project.
It’s our understanding that no contract has been signed-off. Therefore,
there remains no clarity on how much work will actually go to BiFab’s Fife
yards and how much work, if any, will go to the Arnish yard.
Another factory sitting idle, primed to contribute to the so-called green
jobs revolution, is CS Wind in Machrihanish.
Unite has repeatedly raised the seriousness of the situation as the factory
awaits a decision on the Hornsea 2 project. The project could see 40 towers
being fabricated providing twelve months of work.
If CS Wind does not win this contract then in all likelihood the factory
will have no future as the UK’s only manufacturer of onshore and offshore
wind towers. Urgent clarity must be brought to the situation at CS Wind and
BiFab because these facilities are lying empty while people are being lost.
Claims made by the Scottish Government in 2010 that developing a low-carbon
economy would create up to 28,000 direct jobs in the offshore wind sector
by 2020 has turned out to be a fantasy.
The fact is there has been less than 2,000 direct jobs created. The latest
developments in the NnG contracts follows the previous announcements by the
Belgian procurement firm GeoSea DEM on the Moray East project to award
contracts for 100 turbine jackets to the United Arab Emirates fabricators
Lamprell, and Belgian steel constructors Smulders.
In Kincardine, the fabrication work for five platforms supporting the
project was awarded by procurement firm Cobra Wind International to the
Spanish state shipbuilders Navantia.
Both the Moray East and Kincardine offshore windfarm projects have a value
of around £2.8 billion.
All eyes now turn to the next major test in Scotland’s renewables contract
SSE are set to announce the contract work on the Seagreen project in the
Firth of Forth, and everyone including the Scottish and Westminster
Governments will be judged on whether local firms such as BiFab win any
work. Seagreen is situated only 16 miles off the Angus coastline.
This is one of the most significant construction projects undertaken in
Scotland and will see up to 114 turbines being placed off the coast.
Montrose Port will be used for SSE’s operations and maintenance base for
the construction of the Wind Farm.
Shockingly, supply chain jobs for this project are reported to be already
lost to China.
The irony should be lost on no one that a company with ‘Scottish’ in its
corporate name is rumoured to be awarding work to companies based in China
who are supported by the state.
Companies such as SSE have been subsidised to the tune of billions of
pounds of public money through the UK government’s Contracts for Difference
This process has set meaningless targets for job creation which is why the
system is not fit for purpose and is in need of urgent reform. Clear
targets must be set in future auctions.
Such reform must work in sync with the Scottish Government harnessing its
consent, planning and procurement powers together with government bodies
including the Crown Estate and Marine Scotland.
Unless the Scottish and UK Governments undertake immediate action to reform
the process associated with the renewables sector then our nation’s
greatest export is in danger of being the thousands of jobs and billions of
pounds lost to foreign firms which should be captured for the benefit of
Pat Rafferty is the Scottish secretary for Unite