Scotland politics

Scottish secretary: UK should be 'better' at producing turbines

Wind farm near Carluke in Scotland Image copyright Getty Images

The Scottish secretary has said the UK must get "better" at wind turbine production, amid concerns about parts being shipped from Indonesia.

He told MPs that importing turbines was "not the answer", but a result of the "market economy".

Eight wind turbine jackets for a 54-turbine wind farm off the Fife coast will be built at BiFab's Methil yard, but most of them will be imported.

The STUC said Mr Jack was "callous" to brush away local workers' concerns.

BiFab builds large-scale equipment for the offshore oil and gas industry, as well as platforms for offshore wind turbines and tidal generators.

The engineering firm was taken over by a Canadian company in April 2018 in a deal brokered by the Scottish government, but has seen very little work since then.

Work has not yet started on the eight wind turbine jackets it will build for the £2bn Neart Na Gaoithe (NNG) offshore wind farm.

'Straight answer'

In the Commons, Mr Jack was asked how many jobs had been created at the Fife sites since BiFab won the contract for the EDF Renewables' NNG project.

Shadow Scotland secretary Tony Lloyd said there had been a commitment to create 1,000 jobs to make the turbine jackets, and asked: "Can the secretary of state tell the House how many jobs have been created?"

Mr Jack responded: "No, because I don't know the answer.

"That's a perfectly straight answer to a straight question, but what I can tell you is the sector deal aims to create 27,000 jobs by 2030, that's what the sector deal states."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The BiFab Methil yard in Fife was mothballed after the Scottish government bailed out the company

The Labour frontbencher replied: "I'll tell [Mr Jack] - 1,000 in Indonesia.

He added: "What confidence can people have in Scotland that jobs in a wind farm 10 miles off the Fife coast will be created for people in Scotland, not people in Indonesia?"

Mr Jack said: "Well that is the market economy and we need to be better at pricing and better at producing our turbines and that's the straight answer.

"These and many other issues we'll discuss when we bring [climate conference] COP26 to Glasgow later this year.

"I don't dispute with him, bringing wind turbines from Indonesia is not the answer, we need to find a better way of efficiently delivering them in the UK."

'Callous and stupid'

Following the exchange, STUC general secretary Grahame Smith said: "Offshore wind is subsidised by Scottish energy users through their fuel bills, even as hundreds of thousand live in fuel poverty.

"Meanwhile workers in Scotland's fabrication yards are losing out on work that is being shipped from tax-free zones in Indonesia."

Mr Smith said it was "both callous and stupid" to brush away the concerns of workers and local communities with a "blase reference" to the market economy.

A spokeswoman for the UK government said: "The secretary of state made clear that the UK government is wholly committed to supporting Scotland's renewables sector, and that importing turbines from Indonesia is not an acceptable long-term solution. To suggest that he dismissed concerns is simply misleading."

Matthieu Hue, the chief executive of EDF Renewables UK, said: "We don't recognise many of the statistics being quoted here. However, only this week, we have outlined details of four supply chain events to be held in Scotland at which Scottish companies will be introduced to the Tier 1 contractors for Neart na Gaoithe.

"We are committed to generating as much work as possible here in Scotland. The full extent of the benefit to the Scottish supply chain will become clear once all Tier 2 and Tier 3 contracts have been awarded."

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