Concerns were raised by ministers about the position of the South Korean-owned CS Wind Machrihanish factory, which has received nearly £3m in taxpayer-funded grants from Scottish Government’s economic and community development agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) after scores of workers have lost their jobs.
CS Wind used to have 134 staff but workers say it is now being overseen by just six people and union leaders are concerned it is being ‘wound down’.
The Scottish Government said on Friday is still to receive a formal response from CS Wind to a letter seeking clarity about their future plans.
Now CS Wind UK head Yun-Cheol Kim says they are still looking to keep the factory going by seeking new work and insisted that they had not intention of taking out any equipment.
On an application by HIE, an interim interdict was agreed in early February by Court of Session judge Lord Ericht that stops CS Wind’s officers, employees and agents from removing plant or equipment from the factory out of the Highlands and Islands. It was amended to allow the company to deliver items manufactured to satisfy customer orders.
HIE said it had taken the formal measures to protect the assets on site to make sure the plant retains its capacity to meet the requirements of any new orders secured.
Mr Kim told the Herald from South Korea, where he remains due to a coronavirus
“restriction”: “Even though there was interim interdict regarding equipment in the plant, HIE and CSW are resolving effectively.
“Originally CSW didn’t try to move out any equipment because CSW is keeping sales activities to get new [a] opportunity. HIE already knew it, so there is no concern among us.
“Also, HIE and CSW UK [are on the] same page through regular meeting(s) to share the progress. There is fluctuation on this kind of business
so, manufacture can stop operation sometimes and start again through re-hiring. It’s normal in this business.
“I don’t think that there is any concern so far.”
Unite in Scotland
have raised concerns about the intentions of CS Wind saying the factory has been lying idle for months while it should be one of the crown jewels in Scotland’s renewables industry”.
The concerns were raised amidst criticism that Scotland’s forecast of a jobs bonanza from the offshore wind farm revolution are “a pipe dream” as it emerged it has created just 6% of the 28,000 direct jobs predicted by this year.
And worries remain over multi-million pound contracts for Scotland ‘s wind farm revolution – after a ministerial summit convened to end the “scandal” of Scots green jobs going abroad promised action at the end of last year.
When in April, 2016, HIE and Scottish energy firm SSE off loaded its stake in the operations, previously run by Argyll-based Wind Towers (Scotland), they said at the time that CS Wind planned to invest up to £14m in Scotland which would safeguard 130 skilled jobs and create up to 70 new jobs in rural Argyll.
HIE gave CS Wind nearly £3m most of which was to create the UK’s first offshore wind tower factory but conditions attached to the funding require the company to maintain business operations at the plant linked to the purposes for which the funding was awarded. That obligation period runs till March, next year.
The concerns in Scotland echoed worries raised in Canada about the mothballing of a factory after the wind turbine manufacturer opened in Windsor in 2011 as part of a multi-million dollar deal with Ontario’s Feed-In Tariff program for renewable energy sources. CS Wind was expected to hire around 400 people when it first opened. As of 2015, it employed 482 people.
It started winding down production six years after promising jobs and economic investment with $10-million publicly funded incentives.
In July, last year the turbine plant was sold for $12m with no activity at the plant for several months and with all employees laid off.
In October, it was revealed that the CS Wind Scottish base faced the loss of 73 jobs amongst its 94 employees while recording pre-tax profits the previous year of £7.1 million in 2018.
The 2018 annual report had looked forward to a “positive” next financial year “with a further increase in production volume expected”.
Mr Kim said in his assessment: “The UK is unquestionably an attractive place to do business in renewables. The industry continues to enjoy consistently high levels of public support with offshore wind expected to take the lead in renewables between now and 2020.”