Nicola Sturgeon is to return from a UN climate change conference earlier than planned to be available for talks over the future of the crisis-hit BiFab yards, the Deputy First Minister has told MSPs.
John Swinney said the Scottish Government was “doing absolutely everything” it can to protect hundreds of workers’ jobs at the sites in Burntisland, Methil and Arnish.
Ministers have held discussions with all parties involved in the “private contractual dispute” which led the company to warn it is in danger of going into administration, he said.
Mr Swinney, standing in for Ms Sturgeon at First Minister’s Questions, was speaking as BiFab workers marched on the Scottish Parliament as part of efforts to safeguard their future.
The firm, which makes equipment for both the oil and gas industry and the renewable energy sector, has a workforce of 1,400 employees, contractors and subcontractors at the Fife and Isle of Lewis yards.
The Deputy First Minister said: “I want to take this opportunity to reassure parliament, the workforce and the communities that the Scottish Government is doing absolutely everything we can to try to bring this matter to a resolution.
“Fundamentally, this is a private contractual dispute among players within the consortium that are involved, and the Scottish Government is talking to every party involved.”
Mr Swinney said ministers had been “immersed in discussions” with BiFab, Dutch-owned contractor Seaway Heavy Lifting (SHL), trade unions and the UK Government since the issue emerged last Thursday.
He added that “the First Minister is returning early from her trip in Bonn to be available this afternoon to convene face-to-face discussions at St Andrew’s House if those are required”.
Mr Swinney also told MSPs that the government remains open to discussions around providing financial support after being pressed on the issue by Scottish Labour’s interim leader Jackie Baillie.
“The government will of course stand ready to engage in any discussions on that question,” he said.
“Quite clearly there are rules within which the government has got to operate in the deploying of public expenditure, but our fundamental focus just now is on resolving the contractual issues that have led us to this situation.”
Ms Baillie said: “Can I welcome very much the return of the First Minister from Germany where she has been talking about climate change, particularly when one of Scotland’s biggest sources of renewable jobs is facing administration.
“These benches will support the government in any way that we can to secure the jobs at risk at BiFab and to keep the work in Scotland.
“It is essential that all options are explored.”
Referring to the government’s purchase of Prestwick Airport, Patrick Harvie, co-convener of the Scottish Greens, said: “If the Scottish Government can bail out an airport, surely we can show a level of commitment and investment to the renewable industry that will be critically important for our future?”
He added: “If we’re to make progress towards a zero-carbon Scotland, we must do more to support offshore wind energy.
“BiFab is a company at the forefront of this transition, and the workforce need to know that the Government has an industrial strategy that commits to support their jobs.”