Community activists, unions, councillors, local business and industry representatives have today (Thursday 24 September) launched the “Action for Arnish” campaign, after renewables supply chain firm BiFab failed to secure any work from the £3 billion Seagreen offshore wind project.

Manufacturing contracts for the project’s 114 turbine jackets, which will be located 27 miles off the coast of Angus, have instead been awarded to Fluor and Lamprell, and will be delivered exclusively at their yards in China and the UAE before being shipped to Scotland.

Campaigners have intervened to prevent the permanent closure of the publicly owned fabrication yard, demanding transparency over the leasing arrangements between BiFab’s owners DF Barnes and the Scottish Government, along with an investment and industrial strategy to allow the yard to compete for contracts across the energy sector.

The launch follows stormy exchanges in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday involving the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Fair Work over the government’s failure to deliver on previous job creation commitments for Scotland’s offshore wind sector.

GMB Scotland Organiser Hazel Nolan said: “Scotland has no chance of a “green recovery” if there is no investment in the local supply chains and we continue to award renewables manufacturing contracts to the rest of the world.

“The Arnish yard has been lying mothballed for nearly a year but every turbine jacket from the Seagreen project will be manufactured in either China or the UAE, anywhere it seems but Scotland, and that’s disgraceful.

“It’s been a decade since Alex Salmond promised us the “Saudi Arabia of Renewables” and Scottish Renewables forecasted 28,000 jobs in offshore wind, yet the Cabinet Secretary told parliament yesterday that delivering jobs for the “green revolution” is dependent on independence.

“This is what political failure looks and sounds like, a decade of lies and spin at Holyrood and Westminster ending up in a constitutional blame game, and an industry body cheerleading for the rest of the world while Scottish communities are desperate for jobs.

“We warned that despair will turn to anger the longer this failure is left unchallenged. Communities failed by politics will take control of their own futures and the “Action for Arnish” campaign is a direct response to what is a renewables scandal too far.”

The “Action for Arnish” declaration calls for full transparency from the Scottish Government on current leasing terms for the yard; a statement of intent from BiFab/DF Barnes; and open access for any other company which can use the yard.

Signatories – all in personal capacities - include the leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Roddie Mackay; the chair of the Outer Hebrides Energy Group, Ian McCulloch; former UK Energy Minister, Brian Wilson, and the interim principal of Lews Castle College, Sue MacFarlane.

All elected representatives for the Western Isles will be asked to support the declaration which is also being sent to Scottish Government Ministers. An ongoing campaign will now be mounted in support of jobs at the yard.

The initiative has come from former members of the Arnish Workers Committee. Their spokesman, Iain MacLeod, said: "There is a great sense of frustration on the island about the way Arnish is a neglected issue for the people who hold power over it.

 “We have repeatedly held back from launching this campaign because there was supposedly always something about to happen, but it never materialises. We now need to fight for the future of the yard and the jobs that depend upon it which are critical to the island's future".

The campaign has the support of the STUC as well as GMB and Unite trade unions who had members at the yard. Hazel Nolan, Scottish organiser of the GMB, said: “Scotland has no chance of a “green recovery” if there is no investment in the local supply chains and we continue to award renewables manufacturing contracts to the rest of the world.

“The Arnish yard has been lying mothballed for nearly a year but every turbine jacket from the Seagreen project will be manufactured in either China or the UAE, anywhere it seems but Scotland and that’s disgraceful”.

Former UK Energy Minister and Lewis resident, Brian Wilson, said: “This is a campaign the whole island should get behind. The key demand is that the Arnish facility which was created through past public investment must be available to any company capable of bringing work into it, rather than sterilised by a deal that has failed to deliver.”

Earlier, the news that none of the fabrication work for the Seagreen offshore wind farm project has been awarded to BiFab brought an angry response from Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant.

During topical questions in Holyrood on Tuesday September 22, Mrs Grant asked the Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work and Culture, Fiona Hyslop, if the Crown Estate would guarantee that their first round of Scotwind leases would ensure that there was local content in these projects and that they would adopt fair work practices.

Rhoda Grant said “Too often we see work going to overseas yards that undercut us by using low wage economies to compete. When companies are making money out of Scotland’s natural resources, we should ensure that that work is carried out by people paid and protected in the same way as they would be in Scotland.

“Furthermore, given these are our natural resources our communities should also benefit from the economic boost of these jobs. Workers in Lewis and Fife should be employed making the turbines required for the Seagreen wind farm.

Mrs Grant continued “I also asked the Cabinet Secretary if the Scottish Government would look at the historical practice of bidders for Scotwind leases. It would be simply wrong for companies who overlooked the Scottish workforce in the past to get these contracts on the promise of doing better in the future.”

The Cabinet Secretary asked that Mrs Grant writes to her on the detail and she would respond.

Initial local supporters of the campaign - all signing the protest letter in their personal capacity – are:

  • Murdo F. Campbell, former Arnish worker and Stornoway Trustee
  • Donald Crichton, Chair of Sustainable Development Committee, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar
  • Roz Foyer, General Secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress
  • Roddie Mackay, Leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar
  • Ian McCulloch, Chair of Outer Hebrides Energy Group
  • Iain MacIver, Maciver Peels Crane Hire
  • Calum MacLean, member of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and Stornoway Trustee D.R. MacLeod, Haulier
  • David MacLeod, ex Arnish Works Committee
  • Iain MacLeod, ex Arnish Works Committee
  • Rab MacMurdo, ex Arnish Works Committee
  • Angus Morrison, Chair of Audit and Scrutiny Committee, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar James Morrison, ex Arnish Works Committee
  • Hazel Nolan, GMB Scotland Organiser
  • Charlie Nicolson, member of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and Stornoway Trustee Pat Rafferty, Unite Scotland Regional Secretary
  • Zena Stewart, former member of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar
  • Brian Wilson, former UK Energy Minister
  • David Wood, Haulier

Local politicians back ‘Action for Arnish’ campaign

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron and Sgir’ Uige Agus Ceann A Tuath Nan Loch Councillor Raghnall Friseal have backed the ‘Action for Arnish’ campaign, following SSE’s decision to award Seagreen contracts to firms with manufacturing sites in China and the UAE.

Scottish Conservative MSP Donald Cameron said:“It is extremely disappointing that BiFab’s high-skilled workforce in Arnish have been overlooked by SSE in the contract process for the Seagreen development.

“The SNP Government promised that we would have a green revolution in Scotland, but when local firms are losing out on business to China and UAE, it sounds like this is all talk, but no action. 

“Ministers need to get round a table with local workers and other stakeholders to explain why this has happened, and what can be done to actively promote our high-skilled manufacturing workforce on Lewis.”

Cllr Raghnall Friseal said: “It has only been a few years since jobs at Arnish were saved, but this news is a slap in the face for local workers.

“I am committed to working with those involved at the Arnish site, the Scottish Government and others to identify ways of supporting our local workforce.”

LABOUR BACKS ACTION FOR ARNISH CAMPAIGN

The Western Isles Labour Party has given its backing to the Action for Arnish campaign which has been launched by former workers at the yard, trade unions and community leaders.

In a statement, the constituency party said:  “We warmly commend the former Arnish workers who have taken the lead in trying to focus attention on the disgraceful treatment of the yard over recent years.

“The demand for the Arnish yard to be available to any user which can bring work to it is particularly important.  The dependence on BiFab which was created by the Scottish Government as a side-deal to the Fife yards has been a disaster for Arnish.

“The MP and MSP for the Western Isles are the people who should have been making these demands long ago but in their absence it is time for others to take the lead in fighting for jobs in the islands.

“Without a sustained campaign to market Arnish and make the necessary investment, we will continue to see opportunities pass the yard by without anyone being held responsible for this failure.

“The Western Isles Labour Party urges every islander, regardless of politics, to add their names to the Declaration for Arnish and to give full support to an ongoing campaign for the yard.”

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar backs Action for Arnish

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is backing the Action for Arnish campaign and is meeting with Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse later this month to highlight concerns and seek a more sustainable future for the Arnish yard.

Councillor Donald Crichton, Chairman of the Sustainable Development Committee, said:  “The disappointing news this week that Bifab has been unsuccessful in bidding for the SSE renewables contract off the East coast is a further blow to our local economy.   This, of course, has implications for the Arnish fabrication yard and leaves our skilled local workforce without any prospect of future work. 

"It further highlights the lack of a national strategy or framework that would put in place incentives to ensure that renewable energy developers use local markets to construct their projects.

"Along with the Council Leader I am a signatory to the statement by the Arnish Campaign Group and fully share their frustration at the lack of progress in securing contracts for the yard.

"The Comhairle is meeting with the Energy Minister on 30 September and will be highlighting our concerns and seeking that he open up a new dialogue with the Arnish Campaign Group to address the issues raised and seek a more sustainable future for the Arnish yard.”

 (Details of local involvement have been added on several occasions to this article which was first posted at 00.01 today)