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The extent of how clueless Ministers are is frightening. In the House of Commons on Wednesday, Scottish Secretary Alister Jack was asked about the awarding of a major contract at the £2 billon Neart na Gaoithe Offshore Wind Farm off the coast of Fife to Indonesia, while the manufacturing workers at nearby BiFab missed out. The contract could have created a 1,000 jobs at the Fife yards, instead the manufacturing of the sleeves will travel across half the globe, generating significant carbon emissions from the shipping alone. Jack blithely responded that it is just "the market economy at work". That dogma doesn't stand up to an ounce of scrutiny. The Scottish Government licensed the offshore wind farm. The UK Government set the basis for renewables subsidies through Contracts for Difference. The EU restricted what subsidies are possible through public procurement and state aid rules. The company which won the contract, EDF Renewables, is owned by the French state. The Indonesian firm which won the sub-contract off EDF, Saipem, is owned by Italian conglomerate ENI, and benefits from operating in an 'enterprise zone' which offers special tax, regulation and infrastructure incentives, and with few workers rights. The state has had a role to play in shaping this 'market' every step of the way.

Trade unions are rightly angry about Jack's remark. The promised green jobs boom has not come because the sector is dominated by multinationals (some owned by other country's states) which know how to rig public procurement processes and state aid rules to maximise their profits. Meanwhile, the local supply chains we need for the zero-carbon transition are undermined, and the farce of offshoring contracts around the world to build a windfarm in Scotland in the middle of a Climate Emergency continues. There is a small window of opportunity to rewrite the rules on procurement and state aid as Britain exits the EU in such a way that it is fit for the zero-carbon transition, but with Minister's like Jack in charge talking nonsense about an imaginary free-market, there's little hope that anything other than corporate interest will win out.
Ben Wray, Common A.M.

Top Story
 
The comments of Scottish Secretary Alister Jack on the Neart na Gaoithe (NnG) Offshore Wind Farm can be watched in full here.

The 450MB windfarm is the largest offshore development in the UK currently. Offshore construction starts in June this year, and is expected to be complete by 2023, and power 375,000 homes. The license was awarded to EDF Renewables in

While the turbines are being assembled at the Port of Dundee, EDF has only awarded around 15 per cent of the contract for construction of the sleeve jackets for the turbines to local company BiFab, which was saved from going under in 2018 partly through the Scottish Government taking a stake in it, but has seen many of the jobs lost already.

BiFab said it had missed out on contracts on renewable projects to foreign competitors, many of which - the company claimed - had grown due to their governments taking a more lax view of EU state aid rules than in the UK.

Trade unions have claimed that EDF has broken promises on jobs to BiFab, but the terms of the licensing agreement means it is the company's decision where to sub-contract from. Unions say stringent conditions on supply chains should be tied to licensing agreements.

GMB Scotland organiser Hazel Nolan said: "Alister Jack has unwittingly revealed the truth: the UK government has washed their hands of their responsibility to deliver renewables jobs here in the UK.

"Far from ‘the market economy’, what we are seeing is yards here in the UK being abandoned by our government and left to compete with heavily state subsidised yards abroad.

"The Scottish and UK governments have failed to produce an industrial strategy to match the rhetoric on green jobs and it’s energy consumers here in the UK that are propping up this rigged market with spiralling energy bills."

'Unfair competition' and the lack of a Scottish industrial policy

Professor Mike Danson has examined the Indonesian sub-contractor on Bella Caledonia last year, and found "unfair competition in the fabrication of turbine jackets by European multinationals offshoring construction to zones where they can benefit from exemptions from taxes and regulations, and other subsidies".

The NnG project is just one example of sub-contracting going abroad in Scotland. On a Moray East windfarm project licensed to Belgian procurement firm GeoSea DEM, a contract for 100 turbine jackets went to the United Arab Emirates fabricators Lamprell, and Belgian steel constructors Smulders. BiFab again failed in a bid for a portion of that work, and said the terms of the procurement process were changed at the last minute.

BiFab commented at the time:
"Companies that don’t stick to state-aid rules should be excluded from the process. We can’t compete if work keeps going off Scotland’s shores."

In November, the New Economics Foundation published a paper on an Industrial Policy for Renewables Manufacturing in Scotland. It found that "the Scottish Government should match its aspirations to be a world leader on climate action with more direct support for domestic manufacturing for its future renewables growth". The report makes a series of policy proposals for how it could do this, including establishing a Scottish Energy Development Agency and, with the Scottish National Investment Bank, following the example of KfW in Germany which has "pushed at the boundaries of what is possible within state aid rules".

For a full picture of the situation with renewable energy and jobs in Scotland, the STUC published a detailed report last April, which found that the renewables economy was "characterised by overseas financial interests, a limited industrial base and precarious work."
 
Other News
 
  • The Scottish Government is to hold a drugs summit the day before the UK Government does, at the same venue. The 26 February summit, the Scottish Government said, would "better highlight the problem in Scotland". Scotland's drug deaths rate is three times higher than the UK as a whole, with Glasgow being the drug deaths capital of Europe. (BBC)
  • The UK Government has insisted that the Climate Summit will be held in Glasgow, after the FT reported that they had opened talks with the ExCeL venue in London as a "fallback option". A government spokesperson said it was standard practise to carry out "contingency planning". (BBC)
  • The GMB union has said that the office staff of MSPs could go on strike over a wages dispute. The staff have been offered a 1.4 per cent pay rise, with public sector salaries as a whole going up by 3 per cent. A meeting of the Scottish Labour Parliamentary Staff branch will be held next week to discuss possible industrial action. (The National)
  • The UK Government has lost over £250 billion in 13 years by giving generous tax breaks to North Sea oil firms, a new report has found. The Scot.E3 paper written by Juan Carlos Boué, a leading international oil expert and lawyer, also found that the oil giants will leave taxpayers with a £23 billion bill for decommissioning oil rigs. (The Ferret)
  • The cost of setting up Scotland's Social Security system, Social Security Scotland, has more than doubled to £651 million. The one-off costs had originally been priced at £308 million. The costs had to be revised when officials realised how tricky it was to move benefits over from the DWP without a break or delay in payments. (Daily Record)
  • Eleven community ownership projects in Scotland will split just over £1.5 million in funding from the Scottish Land Fund. The largest award was £390,000 to a community development company on Colonsay, which will allow them to build affordable homes and create a site for affordable business units. (STV)



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