BiFab: Scottish Government unable to continue to support yards

Continued Scottish Government support for the BiFab yards is no longer legally possible, the Economy Secretary has said.

BiFab yard in Burntisland
BiFab yard in Burntisland

Giving a statement to the Scottish Parliament today, Fiona Hyslop said she has been “disappointed” by the lack of investment from the majority shareholder of the yards, JD Driver.

Around 1,300 jobs were lost when the yards were taken over by the company, supported by Scottish Government cash, with hopes hundreds would return when contracts were signed on future fabrication deals.

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Explaining the Scottish Government’s position, Ms Hyslop said the yards had had the “potential” to secure both the NNG and Seagreen contracts for wind farms, and that she was “extremely disappointed” by SSE’s decision to not award the Seagreen contract to the yards.

Ms Hyslop said that decision was “pivotal in the situation which BiFab now faces” and claimed the bid had been competitive.

She said state aid rules meant the Scottish Government could not provide additional support to the yards and said BiFab’s board was told on September 18 this was the case.

The Economy Secretary added that she had met with Michael Gove earlier to discuss the future of the yards and claimed the UK Government shared the view that it was unlawful due to state aid laws to continue to support the facility.

A joint working group between the UK and Scottish governments has been set up as a result of the meeting to continue to explore how the business could be supported legally.

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, Ms Hyslop said: "It is not that the Scottish Government does not want to continue to support BiFab, it currently cannot.

"My conclusion that the Scottish Government can no longer to continue to support the business is based on a range of facts, including the current position of the business, its trading forecasts, its prospects for future work and the continued no risk position of the majority shareholder.

"In the absence of a detailed proposal for the continued operation of the business from the majority shareholder, it is difficult for the Scottish Government to currently establish a legal or financial case for continued support.”

Scottish Conservative economy spokesman Maurice Golden said it was another case of broken promises from the Scottish Government on green jobs.

He said: “The nationalist handling of the BiFab fiasco is another sad example of the mishandling of Scotland’s green economy by the SNP.”

This was echoed by the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie who said: “The Economy Secretary’s statement is nothing more than a long list of excuses which will provide no comfort for the Bifab workers who were promised so much and after the SNP Government had boasted a short time ago that they had saved the company.”

BiFab Joint Trade Union Secretaries Gary Smith and Pat Rafferty added: “Today’s statement amounts to little more than an attempt to deflect from the Scottish Government’s role in BiFab’s predicament, rather than providing accountability and a way forward for the workers’ and communities dependent on these yards.

“The legal advice given to the Minister concerning the withdrawal of guarantees for the NnG contract can and should be released, it is a matter of public interest because any credible hopes of kick-starting the much touted “green jobs recovery” depend on it.”

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