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The Scottish Government considered taking Burntisland Fabrications (BiFab) into state ownership but ruled it would not be lawful, the Economy Secretary has said.

Fiona Hyslop told MSPs that ministers have ruled out nationalising the struggling firm and they “can no longer lawfully support the company financially”.

A £2bn deal collapsed for BiFab to manufacture eight wind turbine jackets at its yard in Methil, Fife, as part of the Neart Na Gaoithe (NnG) project.

BiFab, which also has yards in Burntisland and Lewis, had to be rescued by the Scottish Government in 2017, with the company then acquired by Canada-based JV Driver in April 2018.

The Scottish Government, which remains a minority shareholder, has reportedly been offered JV Driver’s shares at no cost but Hyslop insisted public ownership would be unlawful under state aid rules.

During a debate in Parliament on BiFab, she said: “I have considered all legal options for continued financial support to BiFab by the Scottish Government.

“My conclusion – that the Scottish Government can no longer continue to support the business currently – is based on a range of facts, including the current position of the business, its trading forecasts, its prospects for future work and the continued no-risk position of the majority shareholder.

“We’ve explored a range of alternatives, including state ownership, but have concluded that there is no legally compliant way for us to do so.”

Opening the debate, Labour MSP Alex Rowley described the Scottish Government’s blaming of state aid, JV Driver and a lack of a long-term strategy as “red herrings”.

He said it cannot “sit back and allow the work of Scottish offshore renewables to go to countries in Asia”, where prices are driven down by low-cost labour, state-led investment and subsidies.

The Scottish Government has argued state aid rules prevent ministers from bailing out the company but Rowley called for the legal advice to be published.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said letting BiFab collapse will be an “astonishing waste of money” and a “failed opportunity to bring economic opportunities for hundreds of people in Scotland”.

He added: “Five-hundred workers were on the verge of filling up the BiFab yards to work on the NnG windfarm off the Fife coast but the Scottish Government couldn’t even get organised to build eight turbines.

“If the reports are accurate that the Government may lose over £52m it invested in BiFab it will mean each job cost £262,000 each – that’s over a quarter of a million pounds per temporary job.

“The Government should publish the legal advice on state aid without delay and immediately contact EDF and Siapen to ensure those eight jackets can still be built here if we get our act together.”

Scottish Conservative MSP Liz Smith said the situation at BiFab is “deeply damaging” and said it raised “significant concerns” about the Scottish Government’s green policy.

Scottish Green MSP Mark Ruskell said: “Yes, the yards needed considerable investment, but on the horizon was the promise of a commercially viable offshore renewable sector with work for generations to come.

“If this Government is serious about a green new deal then it will have to put public ownership of energy at the heart of its industrial strategy and deliver on it.”



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Post Author: EDONS