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Ministers ‘committed’ to finding future for BiFab as firm enters administration

By Conor Riordan, PA Scotland
·3-min read

The Scottish Government has said it remains committed to securing a new future for Burntisland Fabrications (BiFab) yards after the firm entered administration.

Canada-based DF Barnes bought the business in 2018 but said it was “not an investable company at the time” and it was understood the Scottish Government would be the “primary financiers”.

That was after BiFab, which has yards in Burntisland and Methil in Fife as well as one on Lewis, had to be rescued by the Scottish Government in 2017.

BiFab yard
The Methil yard had been hopeful of a deal to make wind turbine jackets (Andrew Milligan/PA)

The firm had been preparing to put up to 500 employees back to work on a wind turbine scheme when it emerged ministers could no longer provide the necessary financial support.

A £2 billion deal subsequently collapsed to manufacture eight turbine jackets at its yard in Methil as part of the Neart Na Gaoithe (NnG) project.

A statement from the company said: “BiFab can confirm that the board has agreed to place the company in administration following the Scottish Government’s decision to remove contract assurances.

“However the absence of supply chain protections in Scotland and the wider UK have 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.”

The Scottish Government has argued state aid rules prevent it from bailing out the company and it ruled out nationalisation.

It said majority shareholder JV Driver has failed to provide capital and other necessary requirements for the firm to secure new contracts, despite assurances at the time of acquisition.

Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop has committed to working with administrators and trade unions to find a new future for the company’s yards.

Fiona Hyslop
Fiona Hyslop has said the Scottish Government has been ‘exhaustive in our consideration of the options available’ to support the firm (Fraser Bremner/Daily Mail/PA)

She said: “I know this will be an extremely worrying time for BiFab’s workers and we 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.

“The Scottish Government has been working for more than three years to support BiFab through the financial difficulties it has faced and remains committed to securing a future for the yards and the workforce.

“As a minority shareholder, we have been exhaustive in our consideration of the options available to us to support BiFab.

“We will now work with the administrators and trade unions to secure a new future for the BiFab yards in Fife and the Western Isles, helping ensure they are able to diversify and compete in this competitive market.”

When asked about BiFab during First Minister’s Questions in Holyrood on Thursday, Nicola Sturgeon said: “I deeply regret and I’m deeply disappointed by this morning’s developments.

“If there was more we could have done within the law to avert what has happened today, we would have done that.”

Both the Scottish and UK governments faced strong criticism from unions, with GMB Scotland secretary Gary Smith and Unite Scotland secretary Pat Rafferty saying in a joint statement: “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.”