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Hundreds of jobs at risk as BiFab plunged into administration

TRADE unions and politicians slammed the Holyrood and Westminster governments today after Burntisland Fabrications (BiFab) was plunged into administration, risking hundreds of jobs.

The company, which has yards in Burntisland and Methil in Fife and one on Lewis, took the decision after the Scottish government refused to provide more funding and ruled out nationalisation.

BiFab had to be rescued by the Scottish government, which now part owns the company, in 2017 but ministers have said taking the sites into public hands would go against state aid rules, preventing it from bailing out the company for a second time. 

The firm had been preparing to put up to 500 employees back to work when the Scottish government pulled a financial guarantee last month, with a £2 billion deal to manufacture eight wind turbine jackets at BiFab’s Methil yard. 

Canada-based DF Barnes, which bought the company in 2018 after reportedly being assured that the Scottish government would be the “primary financiers,” said: “The absence of supply chain protections in Scotland and the wider UK has consistently undermined our ability to compete with government-owned and government-supported yards outside and inside the European Union.

“We would urge the Scottish and UK governments to address these structural challenges as a matter of urgency in order to ensure that the benefits of offshore renewables are shared more widely with communities across the country.”

Trade union leaders have denounced the treatment of industry, saying hopes that Scotland could support tens of thousands jobs in renewables have long gone, leaving the country “with industrial ruins in Fife and Lewis.”

GMB Scotland and Unite Scotland secretaries Gary Smith and Pat Rafferty said: “BiFab’s administration exposes the myth of Scotland’s renewables revolution as well as a decade of political hypocrisy and failure, in Scotland and the rest of the UK.

“Shamefully the Scottish government has buried these hopes just in time for Christmas and they have worked together with the UK government in doing so.”

Despite the company entering administration, calls have been made for “all options” to be considered to save jobs at the company’s sites.

Scottish TUC general secretary Roz Foyer said: “Today’s announcement is the latest stage in a sorry saga of government and corporate failure, with the victims being workers and their families from Fife to the islands.

“These failures began over a decade ago with false promises of Scotland becoming ‘the Saudi Arabia of renewables’ without an investment and industrial strategy to match.

“No statement of commitment to move forward and create clean energy and renewables supply chain jobs will be believed unless government and big business accept their previous failings.”

The government insisted it remained committed to securing a future for BiFab, with Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop saying she will work with administrators and trade unions.

She said the government “will continue to do everything in our power to support them and stand ready to work with any company interested in taking on the yards.”

But opposition MSPs hit out at the response, with Scottish Labour’s Alex Rowley condemning the government’s “lack of political will” as he called for action to stop “one of the jewels in the crown of Scottish manufacturing” being lost.

He said: “The failure of the SNP government to work with the company and the trade unions to find a way forward is unforgivable and the consequences of that failure is that Scotland will continue to lose out on thousands of jobs in the renewable sector.

“All possible options available to salvage the jobs must be put on the table.”

The Scottish Greens hit out at the claims about state aid restrictions, saying other European countries have state-supported supply chains.

The party’s energy spokesperson Mark Ruskell said minsters had failed to “commit to the renewables revolution Scotland can deliver,” adding: “It’s time for them to put together a public ownership model that will finally deliver jobs for BiFab.”

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