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Row as turbine firm given public cash lays off staff  

Credit:  Greig Cameron, Deputy Business Editor | The Herald | www.heraldscotland.com 26 June 2012 ~~

A Spanish firm that promised to create 180 jobs in Scotland, and was allocated £1.5 million of public money to locate here less than a year ago, has been making staff redundant.

Wind turbine maker Gamesa has let about half a dozen employees go from the offshore wind technology centre it opened in August.

Backed by a regional selective assistance (RSA) grant from Scottish Enterprise, Gamesa launched the £12.5m site at Bellshill, North Lanarkshire, with 40 staff and hoped to have 100 people in place by the end of 2011. Since then it has also committed to a £125m wind turbine manufacturing facility in Leith, which was slated to create 800 jobs and was described as a “validation” of the Scottish Government’s focus on renewable energy by First Minister Alex Salmond.

But The Herald has learned two Spanish engineers were let go from the centre at the end of March and earlier this month four Scots were moved on. The news has sparked calls by opposition politicians for the Scottish Government to investigate.

Mr Salmond performed the official opening of the centre in September and Gamesa chief executive Jorge Calvert pledged to be employing 180 people within three years. But the Spanish company reported its first quarterly loss for a decade in March this year and in May Mr Calvert was replaced.

It is understood there have never been more than 60 people working at Bellshill and around 20 Spanish staff are due to return to their home country by the end of July. Gamesa confirmed it currently employs more than 50 people at the centre.

Rhoda Grant, Shadow Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism, said: “The news calls into question the public money being poured into Gamesa and the SNP strategy in attracting inward investment for our renewable energy sector. I urge the Government to investigate what has happened.”

Around £400,000 of the grant has already been paid with the remainder dependent on certain targets being hit. A spokesman for Scottish Enterprise said: “Payment of RSA is made in instalments, typically over several years as job and capital expenditure targets are met. An initial payment of £400,000 was paid to Gamesa in February 2012 on this basis.

“Conditions have been met for this payment and we will continue to work with the company to help build its presence in Scotland and take full advantage of opportunities in the sector.”

The engineering team at Bellshill was tasked with developing a seven megawatt (MW) offshore wind turbine known as G14X. But since the end of 2011 that project has been scaled back with resources being put into other projects including developing a 4.5MW onshore turbine and a 5MW offshore one.

Michael McMahon, Labour MSP for Uddingston and Bellshill, said: “Gamesa was used only three months ago by Alex Salmond as an example of his track record of inward investment. With these redundancies, I remain to be convinced Gamesa is still committed to the Offshore Technology Centre at Strathclyde Business Park.”

David Blunt, director of public policy for Gamesa in the UK, said the redundancies were “regrettable” but added: “I am not seeing any waning in Gamesa’s interest in the UK offshore wind sector and it is very much recognised as high priority.

“We are continuing to work very hard to establish a manufacturing site in Leith but we need a secure pipeline of orders to underpin that interest.”

Gamesa signed a memorandum of understanding with Forth Ports over the Leith plant in March this year.

Last week Vestas, the world’s biggest wind turbine maker, abandoned plans to build a base in Kent that had promised to create 2000 jobs.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Gamesa is an important player in the global offshore wind sector. We will support Scottish Enterprise in their work to help the company develop in Scotland.”

Source:  Greig Cameron, Deputy Business Editor | The Herald | www.heraldscotland.com 26 June 2012

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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