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Skilled workers turn to food banks after wind farm contract sell-off​

© PA13% of Scots surveyed in a recent charity report said they are worried they may have to rely on food banks this Christmas.
13% of Scots surveyed in a recent charity report said they are worried they may have to rely on food banks this Christmas.

Skilled workers are relying on food banks to survive as the contract for a £2 billion wind farm off the coast of Scotland looks set to go overseas.

The work could have created up to 1,000 green energy jobs in Fife and reopened the mothballed BiFab yards.

But trade unions fear French firm EDF, expected to make £130 million a year from the wind farm, will instead hand the work to a yard in Indonesia 7,000 miles away.

The BiFab manufacturing yards in Methil and Burntisland, which employed 1400 workers at their peak, were wound down last year.

Much of the workforce has struggled to find work, with some even having to rely on food banks to survive.

Among them is Arthur Taylor, 48, who began working in the Fife yards almost 30 years ago.

He said: “We’ve worked hard all our days, since 19 years of age, and now we’re struggling financially.

“It’s demoralising and embarrassing to go to a food bank. We’re a working-class community and all we want to do is put food on the table.”

He added: “Why is the work being put abroad when we have the facility and the skilled workforce here? It’s an injustice for the community. We need the jobs. We want them to trust in us.”

Another Fife worker, David Gerrard, 55, said: “I still have my mum here so she helps me out. But people are having to go to food banks and it’s demoralising for them.

“Getting this contract would provide security for a lot of people like Arthur and myself for a good few years. Families would be safe.”

GMB Scotland’s Michael Sullivan said: “Some of the men are working offshore and others have picked up short-term contracts abroad with companies who have grabbed their skills. But they are just a small group.

“Usually if there is rundown at Methil a lot of workers go to the dockyard down the road and vice-versa.

“But we are suffering from a double whammy of the BiFab yards closing down and the Roysth dockyard paying off staff too.

“The workforce is highly skilled and has a proven track record. It would be devastating to the workforce and the community if the work went to Indonesia.”

EDF bought the Neart na Gaoithe (NnG) offshore wind farm project, which is expected to provide power for up to 375,000 homes, last year from Dublin-based Mainstream Renewable Power.

EDF said it has a track record of using Scottish workers and firms, but none currently have the capability to manufacture and supply all the steel work for the NnG project.

A spokeswoman said: “We understand that the NnG project is seen as critical to securing more work for the BiFab yard and we are working hard to make that a reality.

“The issue is far bigger than our project alone and we are working with a range of bodies including industry groups, the trade unions and the Scottish and UK Governments to look at a long-term plan for BiFab.”

In 2008 then former First Minister Alex Salmond said the seas around Scotland could become “the Saudi Arabia of renewables”.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “All parties are currently working collaboratively in respect of the ongoing commercial discussions on the NnG project.

“As a result, it would not be appropriate to comment on the specifics of this project at this time.”