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