November 16, 2019
Opinions, Scotland

General election: The real political issue of the week that almost everyone ignored

By Brian Wilson | The Scotsman | Saturday 16 November 2019 |

There was a Scottish story this week full of the real stuff of politics – and correspondingly little coverage.

It involved Scottish and Southern Energy’s Seagreen offshore windfarm, off Montrose, which will pour many consumers’ bawbees into SSE dividends.

This largesse did not extend to poor sods working out at sea. These Third World labourers were paid a basic £3.40 an hour by SSE’s Dutch contractors, Fugro Marine, which has offices in Aberdeen.

On being caught red-handed, SSE conceded some workers “may have unintentionally been underpaid as the result of an administrative error at the company”.

Last year, SSE contractor Seaway Heavy Lifting was caught using cheap foreign labour in the Moray Firth and the Beatrice Offshore Wind Farm board agreed to ‘opt-in’ to the SSE Modern Slavery Statement. Well, whoopee!

A few quick lessons. 1, Without trade unions and the National Minimum Wage which Labour introduced in the teeth of Tory opposition, ruthless employers would still be paying exactly what they could get away with.

2, The same bandits are always looking for loopholes – so the one relating to offshore windfarms needs to be closed urgently.

3, Reliance on immigrant labour is a fool’s paradise often leading to exploitation, so be careful what we wish for.

4, Offshore wind is a huge lost opportunity for Scotland because of a total failure to plan for it over the past decade.

It is also worth remembering that SSE is the privatised legatee of a great public enterprise when state investment in the interests of all was not sneered at as a risible concept.

Tom Johnston is entitled to spin in his grave.

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