Bi-Fab, Caley, Fergusons. Only public ownership can deliver the green revolution

News reports suggest that Scottish fabrication firm, Bifab are set to win 8 jackets out of the 54 required for the new Neart Na Gaoithe (NNG) offshore wind farm. The rest look like being made in Indonesian yards before being shipped halfway across the world.

This is a corporate betrayal of the thousands of jobs promised in the NNG contract.

While 8 jackets is paltry, it is more than would have been awarded had trade unions, local community members and environmentalists not mounted the Fife – Ready for Renewal campaign calling for work to go into the fabrication yards in Methil and Burntisland. The owner of the NNG offshore windfarm, EDF, and its Italian contractor Saipem would, in all likelihood, have given all the jackets to Indonesia, while quietly slithering off into the night like sleekit beasties.

Hopefully, the 8 jackets provide a lifeline for those yards, allowing for investment in infrastructural improvements and ensuring Bifab win future contracts for the Seagreen and Inchcape offshore windfarms owned by SSE and the Chinese company Red Rock.

However, unless we learn the lessons from this saga, we risk repeating the mistakes of the past. Like North Sea oil, renewables are being exploited by multinationals intent on providing as little social and economic benefit to workers and communities as they can get away with.

Yet renewables, and energy more widely, is a strategically important industry which the rest of the economy depends on. By its nature the wind is territorially located in Scotland. That means there are levers that Governments at Scottish and UK levels can utilise, whether that be energy policy, planning, licensing, decommissioning or the crown estate seabed.

Ultimately, the wind belongs to us, the people, so it is only right that communities benefit in the form of jobs and economic value.

But social and economic benefit will not come through the present system where multinational companies make large profits on guaranteed, subsidised contracts from the UK Government, get planning consent and support from the Scottish Government, and then go onto offshore jobs and emissions in manufacturing to the other side of the world.

There is a need for a radically different energy system and a green industrial revolution based on public ownership. What might that look like?

The Scottish Government stake in Bifab could form the basis for a publicly-owned offshore wind manufacturing industry, ensuring real benefit to working class communities in post-industrial ports and harbours across Scotland.

Proposals for a Publicly-Owned Energy Company could be radically reformed from a focus on buying and selling energy to consumers to a focus on generation, ensuring profits from renewables come back to the taxpayer.

Proposals for a National Infrastructure Company could form the basis of a publicly-owned, green construction company –retrofitting existing homes and the infrastructure we need to meet the climate emergency.

The Caley Railworks, set to shut today following 163 years of railway manufacturing could be taken into public ownership, building new railway stock and electrifying our network to ensure we have a first class public transport system to rival private car use.

Fergusons shipyard, on the verge of administration, would be taken into public hands, to ensure that we build new, green ferries to ensure our Island communities are connected to the mainland.

None of the above will be delivered by the private sector. Private sector investment in green energy has actually fallen in recent years.

The climate emergency and the failure of multinational companies to deliver strategically important assets presents an opportunity to renew working class communities and tackle climate change through a green industrial revolution built on public ownership.

It is an opportunity we must grasp.

 

Francis Stuart,  STUC Policy Officer

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Ready for Renewal: Voices from the community

Last month saw over 130 trade unionists, environmentalists and members of the Fife community come together to demand answers from EDF.  EDF failed to attend, sparking disappointment and anger within the community, environmentalists and wider trade union movement.  However, attendees also expressed their joy at seeing so many from their community come together united in a common cause.

We spoke to two community members who attended the meeting.

Allen Armstrong, from Levenmouth Rail Campaign, a local campaign to reopen the railway track, gave his take on the meeting:

“Representing the Levenmouth Rail Campaign (LMRC) and local regeneration charity CLEAR, several of us turned up at the Fife for Renewal event around the corner in Buckhaven Community Centre. We witnessed an impressively large turnout especially for a community that has become disadvantaged, disempowered and sometimes apathetic.  It was great to see the wide range of organisations involved – not only STUC and Unions, but community groups and councils, environmental activists as well as individuals.

What struck me was the wider issue this campaign focuses on.  It is not only demanding work be brought here to Fife. It is mere common sense, in terms of social justice as well as economic and environmental efficiency, that the local yards should command a major share of the work for the offshore windfarm only 12 miles away (as opposed to Indonesia over 7,000 miles away).

I happened to be away on a work assignment in Indonesia back in January and they need work there too, but it makes sense to have their own turbines and manufacture them locally.  We need to ensure environmental and local economic concerns go hand-in-hand, and the consuming public also deserve to pay a fair price and receive at least some economic benefit from large scale renewable technology now being established.

Calls for a united front to bring work to Bifab also need to reflect the need to support Levenmouth’s reconnection to the rest of Scotland. The Levenmouth Rail Campaign has been battling for 5 years to reopen another mothballed environmental and economic asset in this area – 5 miles of track between Leven and the mainline currently owned by Network Rail.  Future Bifab workers need to travel to work and reopening the rail-link will bring job and education opportunities to the people of Levenmouth currently left out on a limb.  This decision lies entirely in the hands of the Scottish Government.

We can only hope sense and justice prevail and wait to see what happens next with both campaigns.”

Michelle Ratcliffe, Chair of Buckhaven Community Council stated:

“I was proud to stand strong with fellow community members, business owners and representatives from all political parties. We stood in solidarity and proved that we will not go down without a fight. Our Communities matter, our families matter, we matter.

We find it shameful, disrespectful and insulting that no one came to represent EDF to engage with us and give us answers. However we will not let it end there.

We do not appreciate being lied to and we certainly do not appreciate our energy bills rising to pay for work being shipped half way around the world when they could be built on our doorstep.

We deserve explanations and we want answers. We are tired of being side-lined and short changed. Our communities will show solidarity once more when we visit their HQ in Edinburgh on Friday the 5th July.”

Friday the 5th of July will see trade unionists, Fife community members, energy workers and environmentalists gather outside of the offices of EDF in Edinburgh.  EDF refused to come to the community, so we are bringing the community to them.  For more details, click here.

Standing in solidarity with Hong Kong

On our blog today we have Anthea Koon, Chair of the STUC Youth Committee 2018/19, discussing recent events in Hong Kong and why international solidarity is needed.

The people of Hong Kong are to be admired as millions took to the streets to protest the extradition bill, with young people at the helm. Teenagers and elderly alike have gathered to make a stand against the potential erasure of their rights and freedoms. Young people have been continuously supporting protests by being present, and even some students were still studying on the march.

However, it is saddening to find that while people are peacefully protesting, the police took to the unjustified use excessive force and violence, which has been on the rise since the Umbrella Movement despite no previous association with violent action. Protesters were sprayed with pepper spray, beaten up, and shot with rubber bullets, a sight that no one ever wants to see. The peaceful protesters have been labelled as “rioters” by the police and head of government, and some were arrested while being treated in a hospital following clashes with the police.

Three people, a 35-year-old man, a 21-year-old woman and a 29-year-old woman, have even died since the bill was proposed, all of them jumping to their deaths after leaving messages opposing the bill and supporting the protesters. We don’t want young people to lose hope and be weighed down by these deaths. We don’t want any more to follow.

So far, the bill has been suspended but the people demand a full withdrawal. We must never forget the people who lost their lives in fighting for something they so strongly believed in and our hearts go out to their families who have lost their loved ones.

Hong Kong, we stand in solidarity.