Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has warned that work on a £2bn wind farm project in the Firth of Forth expected to be carried out in Indonesia would be a ‘betrayal’ of workers and climate change commitments.
He spoke out as Scottish Labour urged the Scottish Government to back its call to a French energy giant for construction contracts for the wind farm to go to Scotland, not overseas.
Party leader Richard Leonard said he backs the campaign for EDF Energy to build turbine jackets for its Firth of Forth wind farm at BiFab’s yards in Fife.
Canadian firm DF Barnes bought BiFab’s three yards – at Arnish on Lewis and Burntisland and Methil in Fife – last year in a Scottish Government-backed rescue package, amid fears they would close for good.
Since the buyout, the firm has not secured any offshore wind contracts and wants to ensure developers stick to commitments in UK Government contracts on proportions of work to carried out in Scotland.
The Methil and Burntisland yards were mothballed last year having been close to financial collapse.
It is feared a failure to secure contracts for EDF’s £2bn project off the Fife coast could kill the yards.
Unions and other activists have been calling for a U-turn on plans for the work to be carried out in Indonesia instead of Scotland.
Leading a debate in the Scottish Parliament, Mr Leonard said: “It will be nothing short of a betrayal if the work on EDF’s offshore wind farm worth up to £2 billion located just 10 miles off the Fife coast, if that work is sent around the world to Indonesia.
“This is work that has the potential to create 1,000 green jobs for Fife, fulfilling the promise to the hundreds of the former BiFab workers, skilled workers, who stand ready to work.
“For EDF to sent those jobs elsewhere would not only be a betrayal of those workers, it would be a betrayal of an entire community and a betrayal too of Scotland’s commitments on climate change.”
Mr Leonard said shipping the parts back to Scotland from Indonesia is estimated to produce emissions equivalent to 30 million cars.
He called on the Scottish Government to use planning and procurement powers to counteract this, adding: “I urge the Scottish Government today to join us on calling on EDF to rethink their decision, to invest in communities, the workforce and the people of Fife.”
Green MSP Mark Ruskell said: “It would be an utter scandal if EDF constructed a wind farm just a few miles off the Fife coast, in sight of Methil, where former skilled workers at BiFab have to walk past their mothballed yard every day on their way to try to find new work.”
“Where is the climate justice in that?” he asked.
He added: “If EDF can’t support jobs in the very communities that host their developments, then we should hit them where it hurts, including through divestment campaigns.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said the issue of where the turbine jackets were manufactured was “important to Fife and important to Scotland as well”.
He told MSPs EDF are rumoured to be awarded the contract to Italian firm Saipem, who would build the jackets in Indonesia.
He added: “The environmental footprint alone of shipping these massive structures right the way round the world would be significant – this is supposed to be an environmental project.”
Conservative Dean Lockhart said there are “compelling reasons” to bring the jobs and investment to Fife.
Mr Mackay said it is important “not to let developers off the hook” and said the sector has “let us down” regarding what proportion of the contracts come to Scotland.
He said the Scottish Government is looking at a range of regulations and powers in this regard, but said the UK also needs to act as many areas are reserved.
He added: “I remain cautiously confident that contracts will be secured for BiFab which will see work not only return to Arnish but also to Methil and Burntisland.”
Mr Mackay said the Scottish Government would do everything possible to support the yards.