Gordon Brown: Chinese company interested in BiFab yards

The struggling engineering firm entered administration on Thursday after failing to secure any new contracts.

Gordon Brown: Chinese company interested in BiFab yards STV News

By Gordon Chree and Jack Thomson

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown says a Chinese company is interested in the possibility of taking over two BiFab yards in Fife.

The fabrication business announced its intention to go into administration on Thursday, weeks after a contract to produce parts for wind turbines fell through.

It comes despite the firm, which has plants in Methil, Burntisland and Arnish on Lewis, having been rescued by the Scottish Govenment in 2017.

It was bought by Canada-based DF Barnes in 2018, which understood the Scottish Government would be the “primary financiers”.

Brown, who believes there will be there will be an inquiry into the Scottish Government’s “mismanagement”, said he is aware of interest from a Chinese company.

The struggling engineering firm entered administration on Thursday.Getty Images

The former Labour leader said: “I know for a fact that a Chinese company has been interested in looking at Burntisland and at Methil, and perhaps at Arnish as well.

“I know there’s an interest in developing the renewables industry but it’s got to be a manufacturing industry, it can’t just be a port servicing the North Sea.

“We need the manufacturing jobs because that’s where the value added comes, that’s where the skills come, that’s where we’ve got a tradition in building things and we need to continue to be able to do that in the future.”

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.

‘I know for a fact that a Chinese company has been interested in looking at Burntisland and at Methil, and perhaps at Arnish as well.’

Gordon Brown

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

Brown, who described the company entering administration as a “tragedy”, added: “The company has gone into administration but within ten days it could be pulled out.

“If there’s an inquiry in the Scottish Parliament, as I believe will happen, about the mismanagement by the Scottish Government, then as we saw this week, every other party – except the SNP – the Liberals, Labour, the Conservatives and the Greens, all wanted action to save this company, to save this contract and to save the work for Fife.”

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

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.”

The Scottish Conservatives have also said an urgent parliamentary inquiry should be set up and an audit carried out.

Scottish Tory finance spokesman Murdo Fraser accused the government of failing workers.

The Fife MSP said: “BiFab’s administration could not have come at a worse time for the workers in the run-up to Christmas and my thoughts are with them and their families.

“They deserve better than the way the SNP have shambolically handled operations at these yards, and that’s why we must have a parliamentary inquiry and an urgent audit to find out what exactly has gone wrong here.

“As usual, SNP ministers were quick to boast about having saved jobs, but are hiding away from their responsibilities now that the yards are in administration.

“Instead of trying to blame everyone else for their failures, they need to show leadership and be held accountable for their bad decision-making.

“An audit is necessary to determine how SNP ministers failed so spectacularly while handing over more than £50m of public money.”

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