Western Isles politicians and councillors have hailed a deal to save the BiFab yard in Lewis after it was threatened by administration – and they are hopeful about its long-term future.
The engineering company employs 1,400 people across three Scottish yards – Arnish at Stornoway, and Methil and Burntisland, both in Fife – but called in administrators due to cashflow problems over a contract dispute.
However, the threat has been lifted after the Scottish Government stepped in to hold crunch talks, meaning work will continue on the current contract for the Beatrice Offshore Windfarm.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had even flown back early from a United Nations climate change conference to head up the talks.
A financial package to complete the contract has been provided by Seaway Heavy Lifting, SSE and the partners to the windfarm project, JCE Offshore.
The Scottish Government also indicated it would loan money to BiFab if required.
Western Isles Council leader Roddie Mackay expressed delight that a deal had been struck, adding: “We were quite hopeful some deal could be hammered out because energy, oil and gas is a central priority of the Scottish Government. We are hopeful we will be able to figure out long-term solutions. We see lots of potential projects up here in terms of wind power and we are hopeful of getting work for the inter-connector (undersea cable) for offshore windfarms.
“Strategically, there are huge plans to develop the deepwater port at Arnish and there are still ambitions from picking up the pieces of decommissioning work which will happen long term. Arnish is a real asset for us. There is lots of potential and work for years to come.”
The yard workforce has reduced in size in recent days with a large number of sub-contracted and agency staff leaving. There are still about 100 personnel employed at the island site, which is leased from Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan welcomed the news as a “great Christmas present for the Isle of Lewis,” and said: “The emphasis now will be on ensuring that Arnish receives new orders in the future, something which I believe it is well placed to do, given the growing market in the renewables sector for the work that it does.”
Trade unions the GMB and Unite praised the role of the Scottish Government and Ms Sturgeon in brokering the deal, and the resolute stand taken by the BiFab workers to convince everyone they were determined to fight for their jobs.