Burntisland Fabrications

– in the Scottish Parliament on 17th December 2020.

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Photo of Alasdair Allan Alasdair Allan Scottish National Party

2. To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on BiFab. (S5O-04866)

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

As the member will be aware, I gave evidence to the Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee on Tuesday 15 December and made a statement on BiFab in the chamber on Wednesday 16 December.

Deloitte was appointed as the administrator on Monday 14 December. I have agreed to provide funding in the short term, if there are insufficient funds in the business to remove the immediate threat of redundancies while a sale of business process is pursued. I encourage all interested parties who share our objective of a strong future for the workforce and the sites to contact the administrator.

Photo of Alasdair Allan Alasdair Allan Scottish National Party

I thank the cabinet secretary for her reply and for the helpful update that she gave to Parliament yesterday. As she will be aware, for the communities that I represent, the jobs are more important than the identity of the company. From my point of view, it is the jobs that are brought into Arnish that matter.

In seeking to be open to other potential uses for the yard, is the Scottish Government considering the potential for leasing arrangements that might enable multiple companies to use the yard?

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

That is clearly an issue for the administrator in the first instance, but we are making sure it is aware of the different proposals and ideas and, indeed, of the local aspects, whether in Fife or the member’s constituency, where the Arnish site lies.

We agree with Highlands and Islands Enterprise that a truly successful outcome for Arnish must support year-round economic activity. We are also making it clear to the BiFab administrator that the priority is sustainable long-term employment that enables the peaks and the troughs to be balanced. We want prospective tenants—whether one company or, as Dr Allan suggested, multiple companies—to demonstrate their ability to provide a pipeline of activity. We recognise that Arnish is a strategic asset to the Highlands and Islands, so we would want to ensure that, in addition to use being made of the existing fabrication shops, future tenants could benefit from forming a complementary part of the emerging blue economy cluster on the wider site.

We are mindful, too, of the wide range of economic opportunities that the Stornoway deepwater terminal—the £49 million package for which the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Tourism announced last week—can provide and are keen that the Arnish yard can benefit from that investment.

Photo of Claire Baker Claire Baker Labour

Yesterday, the cabinet secretary said that the chances of the Neart na Gaoithe project coming to Scotland are “receding”. What can the Government do to support Saipem in awarding the NnG contract to the Fife yard, or does the cabinet secretary believe that time has run out for the jobs that were promised to Fife?

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

I certainly do not believe that. The opportunity is there for the NnG contract to be delivered in Scotland, but it is not in my gift to make that happen. That is Saipem’s decision, and it will look at competitive tendering. I pay tribute to EDF, which was encouraging of the NnG project—or a small part of it, at least—being delivered in Scotland. If there is a company that can deliver the project under an agreement with whoever takes over the yard, or if the company itself can take over the yard, it is still possible that the project can be delivered, but that will be a challenge, so I think that we should manage expectations.

That is why, on a number of occasions, I have impressed on Saipem our belief that the project can and should be developed. There is an element of self-interest in that, particularly given that more procurement will require to be delivered by supply chains in Scotland in the future, with ScotWind and with the statement of procurement principles that we have established. As I set out on Tuesday and again yesterday, if the United Kingdom Government can change the contracts for difference scheme, that will provide the impetus and the incentive for companies such as Saipem, and other developers, to deliver work to the yard. I think that that is one of the levers that would mean that it would be in Saipem’s self-interest, and that of other players, to deliver the NnG contract. However, we must be realistic—that will be a challenge.