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Green Industrial Jobs

Volume 685: debated on Wednesday 9 December 2020

What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on promoting green industrial jobs in Scotland. (909869)

What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on promoting green industrial jobs in Scotland. (909890)

The Secretary of State for Scotland meets Cabinet colleagues regularly to discuss all matters of importance to Scotland. This Government are committed to levelling up across the whole United Kingdom, and that is why the Prime Minister has set out his ambitious 10-point plan for our green industrial revolution, which will support up to 250,000 jobs.

The SNP has joined the Tory party in abandoning workers at BiFab, forgoing the green industrial jobs they claim to want to encourage. Within days of the Scottish Government withdrawing their support for BiFab, they launched the Scottish National Investment Bank, stating it would support Scotland’s transition to zero carbon emissions. They say one thing and do another. What discussions has the Secretary of State had with Scottish Ministers about protecting jobs at BiFab and developing a green supply chain in Scotland to facilitate the expansion of its offshore wind capacity?

After exploring all options, both the UK and Scottish Governments have concluded that there is currently no legal right to provide further financial support to BiFab in its current form. A joint working group will be formed between the Scottish and UK Governments to consider ways to strengthen the renewables supply chain in Scotland and to secure future possibilities and opportunities. Both of Scotland’s Governments have committed to exploring options for the future of the yards and to strengthen measures to support the renewables supply chain.

The Minister’s seeming disinterest belies the whole problem. His original words were fine. The reality is that when BiFab, the only manufacturer of the steel cases for these turbines, went into administration, the Edinburgh Government and the London Government walked hand in hand away from that situation. What does that say about the ambition to be the Saudi Arabia of offshore wind production, and what does it say to the workers and the skills base at BiFab when the Government simply abandon them?

The situation at BiFab is a culmination of a number of issues, the main one being the unwillingness of the parent company and majority shareholder, JV Driver, to provide working capital, investment or guarantees for the company. We are determined to secure a new future for the yards in Fife and the Western Isles, and we will explore options for the future of these sites and, through the new working group, work with the Scottish Government to strengthen the renewables and clean energy supply chain.

Does my hon. Friend share my disappointment at the SNP Scottish Government’s continued dogmatic opposition to nuclear power, despite the fact that in recent weeks it has been the leading source of zero carbon generation in the UK? Does he agree with me that the refusal to contemplate a replacement of the Chapelcross power station at Annan in my constituency is depriving the area of the high-quality green jobs from which it has benefited from the last 60 years?

It will come as no surprise that I do share my right hon. Friend’s disappointment. This Government believe that nuclear has an important role to play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Nuclear power stations provide the dependable, low-carbon power that is required to complement renewable energy to ensure a low-cost, reliable, diverse generating mix to meet our net zero ambitions for 2020.

Mr Speaker, this is the first Scottish questions since the Scottish football team qualified for Euro 2020, so I am sure you will allow me to pass on my congratulations to Stevie Clarke and his team for cheering up our nation, and of course we look forward to being further cheered when we win at Wembley in the championships in June next year.

I am sure the Minister is aware of the Proclaimers song “Letter from America”, which includes the line “Methil no more”, and that is what the decision of his and the Scottish Governments have delivered in reality for that community in Fife. Just a few weeks ago, the Prime Minister announced that he was launching a 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution that would deliver a quarter of a million new green jobs. I did not of course realise he meant jobs that were overseas. Can the Minister inform the House how many current and potential green jobs will be lost following the Scottish and UK Governments’ joint decision, in the words of the Scottish Trades Union Congress, to collude to “pull support” from BiFab in Fife?

I share the hon. Gentleman’s enthusiasm. As a former card-carrying member of the tartan army myself, I might be enthused about rejoining it, but being a member of the Whips Office, I am not sure I would always get slipped to attend the matches.

We understand from the Scottish Government, who are closest to the company, that there is no commercial way forward that is compatible with state aid. The UK Government are equally bound by the state aid rules, at least for the moment, and therefore there is no legal way for either Government to intervene at this stage.

I am sure that it will not have escaped anyone’s attention that the UK and Scottish Governments have just hidden behind EU state aid rules—the irony of that. The Minister did not give a figure, so let me give the figure: 500 highly skilled green jobs in Scotland abandoned. And it is not just the Tories who are to blame; unbelievably, the SNP has repeatedly hidden behind the same EU state aid rule, despite initially agreeing to support BiFab and then pulling it without notice. It has ignored a Scottish parliamentary vote to sort it out, and on the SNP’s watch fabrication contracts for offshore wind farms have recently gone almost exclusively—where? —overseas. The post-covid recovery has to be about jobs, yet both Governments are unnecessarily abandoning good clean jobs, and this Government are risking a disastrous no deal Brexit, which will further decimate jobs. So I ask the Minister this: the Prime Minister has broken his promise of an oven-ready Brexit deal, so how many jobs will be lost in Scotland as a result of the Tories delivering a no deal Brexit?

I have already discussed this Government’s commitment to the 10-point plan and the up to 250,000 jobs across the whole of the UK. That is still in play, but this is obviously a disappointing situation, and the recent revelation that a private firm bought a majority stake in BiFab for just £4 before it went into administration raises serious questions about how the SNP Scottish Government could pour tens of millions into a company without securing that yard’s future. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that this whole matter requires a proper inquiry.