Scotland has produced only around one in 20 of the offshore wind jobs forecast by ministers as it aimed to make the nation the green energy capital of Europe and the destination of choice for a renewables jobs revolution by 2020.
The Scottish Government has come under fire for the failure – as new questions have been raised over its predictions for supply chain jobs with ScotWind.
The union Unite has now called for a summit of all stakeholders chaired by the Scottish Government to ensure that the nation does not continue to get the green jobs revolution wrong.
It comes as Crown Estate Scotland confirmed that there was no stipulation over a minimum proportion of local content as it oversaw the auction of seabed plots for 17 major offshore wind projects around the Scottish coast.
While ten years ago the Scottish Government were championing the desire to be the green energy capital of Europe with between 20,000 and 28,000 jobs in offshore wind alone, new official estimates show that in 2020 there were just 1500 employed.
There are a further 2000 onshore wind jobs in Scotland – a number that has been static for six years.
With 130,000 jobs expected by ministers across the low carbon sector, the workforce sector stood at just 20,500 in 2020.
Meanwhile the number of low carbon associated businesses has dropped over the six years from 11,500 to 10,000.
And the estimated turnover from low carbon businesses has also dropped between 2014 and 2020 from £5.85bn to 5.5bn.
It comes five months after the South Korean-owned company running Britain’s only UK facility for manufacturing onshore and offshore wind towers based in Scotland went into administration.
CS Wind (UK) had been seen as a key part of the green jobs revolution in Scotland.
But its factory in Machrihanish, Argyllshire was down just one full-time member of staff for nearly a year after a slump in orders having once employed nearly 200.
And in 2020, administrators were formally appointed to take control of part state-owned Burntisland Fabrications (BiFab), the insolvent renewables manufacturer run from Canada seen as a key part of the future of Scotland’s wind farm revolution.
Deloitte took control of affairs of BiFab after it collapsed when the Scottish Government did a u-turn in backing the firm.
Two of the three BiFab fabrication yards – Methil in Fife and Arnish on Lewis – were subsequently bought out of administration by London-based firm InfraStrata for £850,000. But the former BiFab fabrication yard at Burntisland in Fife was not part of the deal and re-emerged under Forth Ports ownership, with Aberdeen-based dive systems specialist Orca Oceanic Systems setting up an operations facility.
The owners of the Bi-Fab plant, in Methil, Fife, was recently forced to recruit “dozens” of workers from overseas to build windfarm equipment.
Last month it emerged that Scotland is to set to lose billions in profits every year from a new round of offshore wind projects hailed by the First Minister as a “truly historic” opportunity for Scotland’s net zero economy.
The ScotWind projects, with a combined potential generating capacity of 25GW, have been offered new rights worth almost £700m to specific areas of the seabed for the development of offshore wind power.
But some raised concerns that without a state-owned energy company which could have sold the new ScotWind electricity to the grid and retain operating profits, the nation will lose between £3.5 billion and £5.5 billion every year – about a tenth of the current Scottish budget.
While the total impact on the associated supply chain and on the number of jobs created has not been made clear, the First Minister has said their estimates suggest as much as £1 billion could be generated for every gigawatt of power. A gigawatt equates to roughly two coal-fired power plants and is enough to power 750,000 homes in Britain.
But there are continuing concerns that the Scottish supply chain spin off is an “overpromise” with current bids currently excluding any firm commitments – despite constant calls for action.
Pat Rafferty, Unite Scottish secretary, who has raised deep concerns about the green jobs ‘failure’ said: “Despite the fanfare associated with the ScotWind auction, and the estimated £700m going into the Scottish Government’s bank account, for Unite the outstanding problems remain.
“Principally, how many jobs in the domestic supply chain will be created, and what will government actively do to ensure that local workers, companies and communities benefit through binding clauses. Many of the successful applicants are the same ones with an abysmal track record in supporting the domestic supply chain.”
“It is correct to highlight that more needs to be done to build up the capacity, scale and expertise of the domestic supply chain so that Scottish based companies can compete. Unite has consistently argued for a coherent national skills, training and infrastructure plan which is vital to any successful wind power strategy. However, the Scottish Government has failed to deliver this critical component.”
“Around 1000 massive turbines are now estimated to become operational over the next decade. We now have a massive opportunity to right the wrongs of the past. It should be a national priority that we ensure jobs, contracts and profits are not exported to everywhere but Scotland which is the miserable story of the last decade.
“A summit of all the major stakeholders should now be called and chaired by the Scottish Government. This should include the developers, trade unions, and major contractors. We just cant afford to get this wrong as that would be a national travesty. Let’s not forget that the people of Scotland are paying a fair share of this through their utility bills that are going through the roof.”
Crown Estate Scotland said that despite the lack of stipulation over a minimum local content, the ScotWind programme would bring jobs and “new opportunities for Scottish businesses, help build a net zero economy, and hugely increase the amount of clean, green electricity generated here in Scotland”.
A spokesman added: “There has been no stipulation over a minimum proportion of local content, as to include such a stipulation would risk the process not fully adhering to competition and trade rules.
“All ScotWind applicants were required to submit a Supply Chain Development Statement, outlining their commitments to the nature and location of supply chain activity linked to their projects. These commitments will develop over time, and there will ultimately be contractual consequences for developers who don’t deliver on their final commitments. This approach has never been taken before and we expect it will help stimulate significant supply chain benefits for the people of Scotland.”
The respected think tank Common Weal says that a lack of manufacturing capacity in Scotland means that supply chain promises may not be forthcoming if companies believe it is cheaper to import material rather than invest in Scotland.
It has long advocated the establishment of a state-owned company which would have owned energy resources, to provide secure, reliable and low-cost retail energy to households and to ensure there were renewable energy supply chain and manufacturing jobs for Scotland.
It said that the failure to create a state-owned energy company which could have sold the new ScotWind electricity to the grid and retained operating profits, meant the nation will lose between £3.5 billion and £5.5 billion every year in profits – about a tenth of the current Scottish budget.
Nicola Sturgeon said in 2017 that the Scottish Government planned to set up a state-owned energy company in Scotland which was due to be established last year but was dropped in September.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “ScotWind puts Scotland at the forefront of the global development of offshore wind and represents a massive step forward in our transition to net zero.
“The successful ScotWind projects have committed to invest an average of £1 billion in the supply chain for every gigawatt of capacity, which will help create thousands of jobs and transform the Scottish economy. In addition, our new Green Ports will support Scottish businesses to exploit ScotWind opportunities and create new good green jobs.
“There have been shortages of some of the skills required, globally, and recruitment challenges that are being exacerbated by Brexit. We are focused on ensuring that we take advantage of the opportunities offered by the offshore wind sector in terms of benefits in jobs as well as economic activity. The Scottish Offshore Wind Energy Council (SOWEC), co-chaired by the Minister for Business and Trade, is bringing together the whole sector to focus on delivering this.
“The introduction of Supply Chain Development Statements demonstrates how serious the Scottish Government is about holding developers to account if they do not honour their supply chain commitments. We fully expect developers and Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to be engaging with the domestic supply chain from the outset to ensure that those commitments come to fruition.
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