BiFab’s hopes of securing work on giant wind turbines have been delivered a final blow by the UK and Scottish governments who said they have “no legal route to provide further financial support” to the Fife yard.
A £2 billion deal for eight jacket for the Neart Na Gaoithe (NnG) wind farm collapsed last month after the Scottish government withdrew a £30m guarantee because of state aid rules.
A joint working group now being formed to consider future opportunities for the renewables supply chain in Scotland.
In a statement, ministers in both governments said they have concluded that, in the absence of a shareholder guarantee provided by BiFab’s majority shareholder, JV Driver, “there is no legal route for either the Scottish or UK Governments to provide BiFab with the guarantees it would need to secure its contract with Saipem [EDF’s contractor for NnG).”
They said the UK and Scottish Governments are committed to investment in renewables and clean energy. The development of a domestic renewables supply chain is a “key priority for both governments.”
It added: “The UK and Scottish Governments are therefore convening a Joint Working Group to explore how existing policy measures can be used to strengthen the renewables and clean energy supply chain in Scotland, and look at options for the future of the sites where BiFab currently operates and other opportunities around Scotland, in a manner consistent with respective devolved and reserved competencies.”
Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “The Scottish Government has been working for more than three years to support BiFab.
“We have left no stone unturned in our search for a solution to the challenges faced by the business. As a minority shareholder, we have been exhaustive in our consideration of the options available to us to financially support BiFab from public funds.
“The Scottish Government has been clear that State Aid regulations are a barrier to us providing guarantees on the contract from Saipem to build foundation jackets for the Neart na Gaoithe (NnG) project. The UK Government has similarly concluded that there is no legal route for them to provide support.
“The situation at BiFab is a culmination of a number of issues, the main one being the unwillingness of the parent company and majority shareholder JV Driver to provide working capital, investment or guarantees for the company.
“We are determined to secure a new future for the yards in Fife and the Western Isles. We will explore options for the future of these sites and, through this new working group, work with the UK Government to strengthen the renewables and clean energy supply chain.”
Scottish Labour’s economy spokesman Alex Rowley labelled the decision as “a devastating blow for the renewables industry and for jobs in Scotland”.
He added: “There has been a complete failure from both the UK and Scottish government to support jobs and to support the development of the renewables sector in Scotland.
“I once again call on the Scottish Government to publish the legal advice that led them to make a judgment to pull the guarantee.
“There is no point of the SNP talking up a just transition when there are no jobs to transition.
“This is devastating for Scotland and should not be accepted. The SNP’s commitment to jobs isn’t worth the paper it was written on.”
In a joint statement from GMB and Unite, secretaries Gary Smith and Pat Rafferty said: “Until the Scottish Government publishes the legal advice over its decision to walk away from BiFab, all the difficult questions remain unanswered.
“This evening’s statement is also disappointing given that our members learned of this through the media – it makes a mockery of the so-called fair work agenda.