There’s no doubt that Scottish wind presents an enormous opportunity to create and secure thousands of jobs, but only if the mistakes of the past are not repeated. For decades the story of Scotland’s renewables sector has been one of missed opportunity and political failure. Responsibility for this is shared between Holyrood and Westminster, but together government has failed to make big renewables contracts translate into investment in local jobs and supply chains.
All too often the beneficiaries of Scotland’s ‘renewables revolution’ have been Chinese or Indonesian workers rather than ours, as jobs and opportunities have been awarded to companies overseas. For Community members at Liberty Steel’s Dalzell steelworks in Motherwell, who continue to stand ready to supply world class steel plate for the manufacture of wind turbines, these decisions have been inexplicable and disgraceful in equal measure.
The seventeen new contracts that have been awarded for offshore wind farms, with a combined potential generating capacity of 25GW, quite simply must deliver for our workers and industry. The intention to secure £1bn in supply chain investment for every 1GW of generating capacity is welcome, but supply chain plans must be transparent and consulted on with trade unions. After too many false dawns workers will not celebrate ambitious targets before they have been achieved. Dalzell’s steelworkers remember all too well the debacle of the procurement process for the new Forth Bridge, when the multi-million pound steel contracts were allowed to go to firms in China, Poland and Spain.
Our governments must start being bold and unashamedly pro-British in their approach to the renewables sector. They can no longer hide behind EU state-aid rules and government-backed projects must be made to support our jobs and businesses. The recently announced factory to role steel plate for wind turbines at the Port of Nigg is a case in point; it would be a travesty if this plate is not sourced from Dalzell supporting hundreds of jobs there and countless more in the community.
Major government projects should extract maximum benefit for every corner of Britain. Our supply chains are hugely interconnected; Dalzell steelworks, for example, makes steel plates rolled from slab cast at British Steel Scunthorpe, supporting thousands of jobs in the North of England. Tata Steel’s Port Talbot works in Wales makes steel that is turned into tubes in Corby and Hartlepool, before being deployed creating the world’s largest offshore wind-farm at Dogger Bank.
Millions of tonnes of steel will be needed for Britain to meet its net zero objectives, and a strong and sustainable domestic steel industry is an essential foundation for a greener future. If we want to reduce emissions through investing in clean energy it is nonsensical to be transporting steels and hardware from the other side of the world.
Britain’s workers are ready to play their part, but we need government to back us by sourcing locally and compelling developers to do likewise. Another failure to make renewables projects deliver on jobs really would be unforgiveable.
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