Western Isles politicians have welcomed today (Tuesday, April 17th) news of investment opportunities which will secure the future of the Arnish fabrication yard.
It follows an announcement that the Scottish Government has brokered an agreement between Canadian company JV Driver, through its subsidiary DF Barnes, and BiFab to support new opportunities at Arnish, as well as BiFab sites at Methil and Burntisland, for the fabrication and construction in the marine renewables and energy sector.
“We are delivering on the commitment I made last year that we would stand by BiFab and work to secure a long term future for the company,” said First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
“This announcement is also a tribute to the efforts of the trade unions and employees of BiFab whose dignified actions throughout this difficult time have played a huge part in enabling us to bring in new investors and creating new employment opportunities in Fife, the Western Isles, and for the Scottish economy as a whole.”
Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil said: “This is a good step forward with investment coming in from the Scottish Government through HIE and Scottish Enterprise.
“The Scottish Government will be encouraging and helping in the gaining of orders. It is good that all three sites are involved, particularly with Arnish having the capabilities of rolling which are unique in Scotland and the UK.
“They already have a great track record of producing, fabricating and delivering and we wish them every success going forward.”
As part of the agreement, the Scottish Government will take a minority shareholding in the new company to demonstrate continued commitment to supporting the future of the three yards.
The workforce at Arnish is now down to around six employees as the yard transitions to care and maintenance – but there are now high hopes for more jobs to come to the yard soon, said Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan.
“These talks have been underway for some time now and I am really delighted to see today’s deal – which will see work return to all three yards – concluded,” said Dr Allan.
“When BiFab got into difficulty last year, the Scottish Government made a commitment to stand by BiFab and work to secure a long term future for jobs and that is exactly what has happened.
“The workforce at Arnish have demonstrated great resolve and determination in the face of this ordeal, and the unions have worked hard to achieve a positive outcome.
“Were it not for the combined efforts of the community and the Scottish Government, it is questionable what the state of play would be today,” he continued.
“These are good jobs which are important to the island economy. I am eager to hear what orders the yard will get and how many jobs are likely to come back.
“This episode has highlighted a number of issues which will have to be addressed; not least the need to retain skills here on the island through apprenticeships and training, and ensure that workers can have confidence their employment will not be short-term.”
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has also welcomed the announcement. Chairman of the Sustainable Development Committee, Councillor Donald Crichton, said: "The Comhairle warmly welcomes this announcement and the potential it offers for a more sustainable future for the Arnish Yard manufacturing facility. I appreciate there is a lot of hard work ahead, but this is a hugely positive step.
“The workforce at Arnish is highly skilled with significant expertise in the offshore renewables and oil and gas sectors. The facility itself is a first class manufacturing capability that offers potential for future growth into new manufacturing sectors.
The Comhairle will therefore be looking to engage with DF Barnes to fully understand their strategy for the Arnish facility. It is essential that a strategy is put in place that seeks to ensure continuity of contracts and employment and avoids damaging cyclical highs and lows”.
(Comments from CnES have been added since the report was initially published)