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by Jenni Davidson
12 February 2021
Buyer found for two out of three BiFab fabrication sites

Renewables fabrication at BiFab - Image credit: Scottish government Flickr

Buyer found for two out of three BiFab fabrication sites

A buyer has been found for two of the three BiFab fabrication sites in Fife and Lewis.

InfraStrata, which owns the Harland & Wolff shipyards in Belfast, has bought BiFab out of administration in an £850,000 deal.

The company has agreed to take over the steel fabrication yards in Methil and Arnish, which will trade under the Harland & Wolff brand.

The third BiFab yard, in Burntisland, is not included in the deal.

BiFab went into administration in December 2020 after failing to win contracts to build wind turbines.

The company was partly publicly owned after the Scottish Government invested £37m in an attempt to keep it going.

However, it lost out on a £30m contract to manufacture eight turbine jackets for the Neart na Gaiothe offshore wind farm after the government withdrew its offer of a financial guarantee to back the deal. 

The Scottish Government has been criticised for a lack of accountability regarding the investment in BiFab, with MSPs on the Scottish Parliament’s Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee recently concluding that the loss to the public purse from BiFab going into administration “demonstrates that greater accountability and transparency is needed.”

It is not yet clear yet how much of the public investment will be recovered now the company has been bought out.

Economy secretary Fiona Hyslop said the buyout was a “welcome development” for the future of the BiFab workforce.

She said: “The Scottish Government’s priority has been to support BiFab’s workers and I welcome the announcement that a buyer has been found.

“The workforce has an important role to play in the future of manufacturing in Scotland and I look forward to working with the new owner as it forges a new future for the company.

“This is also welcome news for the local communities in Fife and the Western Isles.

“The Scottish Government will also engage with Forth Ports, the owner of the Burntisland yard, to help secure the best possible outcome for that yard.”

The deal has also been welcomed by opposition parties.

Scottish Labour economy spokesperson Alex Rowley said: “This is very welcome news and will come as a relief to many workers who have fought tirelessly alongside their unions to keep these jobs.

“It is of the upmost importance that the new employers engage with the trade unions and ensure that fair work values underpin the futures of the sites.

“Scottish Labour will continue to fight shoulder to shoulder with the workforce for the high-skill, high-pay jobs that Scotland so badly needs.

“We also believe the yard at Burntisland has a future and will work to get that yard up and running as well.”

Scottish Greens Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Mark Ruskell said: “Scotland’s renewables potential is massive, and I’m glad that InfraStrata plc mentioned this in its statement, but we will need to see the detail of this acquisition before we know if this is good news for workers in Methil.

“It is very disappointing that the Burntisland yard still faces an uncertain future.

“Scottish Greens will continue to press the Scottish Government to take a bigger stake in Scotland’s renewables pipeline with direct public investment.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “The purchase of the BiFab assets at Methil and Arnish could be good news for workers, but we need to be cautious until we see the full plans, investment and commitment from the new owners InfraStrata.

“Given sight of those plans we of course stand ready to support the recovery and growth of these infrastructure assets.

“The potential is great with all the new windfarms on the verge of construction off the shores of Scotland, but the yards need significant investment to make them competitive with yards from the far east.

“And the questions from the Scottish Government remain. Just how much of its £52.4million investment in BiFab will be recouped as a result of this sale?”

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has said it was too early to judge whether the deal delivers on its aspirations for the Arnish site, which is for year-round economic activity with long-term sustainable employment.

Councillor Donald Crichton, the council’s chair of sustainable development, said: “It is essential that history does not repeat itself and that any new leaseholder has a robust, costed and sustainable business plan.

“We will be writing to the company to seek early engagement and reassurances around their strategy for the next period and to get an understanding of the proposals which they have outlined.”

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