A RESCUE deal to protect hundreds of jobs and secure the future of the troubled BiFab engineering firm was dramatically announced yesterday by the First Minister.

Nicola Sturgeon broke the welcome news to workers at the yard in Methil, Fife about the move which will see the enterprise taken over by a Canadian company, with the Scottish Government becoming a minority shareholder.

BiFab had previously warned staff at its yards in Methil as well at its other sites at Burntisland and Arnish on Lewis that they faced possible redundancy.

But under the deal Alberta-based JV Driver, through its subsidiary DF Barnes, acquired the firm as part of an agreement brokered by the Scottish Government.

The First Minister said: “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.

“We have been in negotiations with DF Barnes for a number of months and today is a significant step forward in our efforts to restore BiFab to its place at the centre of Scotland’s marine energy industry.”

She added: “DF Barnes’ acquisition is a key milestone for all three BiFab yards and as a sign of our commitment to the company’s future, the Scottish Government will maintain a close interest by taking a minority shareholding in the company.

“There is a lot of hard work ahead, and there is no magic bullet for these yards, but the commitment of DF Barnes to securing a new future for the business at Burntisland, Methil and Arnish is a hugely positive step and I believe that gives BiFab the best chance of winning future contracts and securing new work.”

Economy Secretary Keith Brown added: “This agreement gives the workforce, the company and the government the best possible chance of securing a vibrant future for these yards. As the current contract comes to an end, and while efforts go into winning new work, there will continue to be difficult times for the yard and there can be no guarantees that contracts will be won but I am confident this agreement, which sees the Scottish Government become a minority shareholder in the company, will deliver for BiFab’s future in Fife and the Western Isles.”

BiFab builds large-scale equipment for the offshore oil and gas industry, as well as platforms for offshore wind turbines and tidal generators. The company was saved from administration last year after the Scottish Government issued a loan of £15 million to ensure it could meet its commercial commitments and deadlines.

JV Driver is one of Canada’s largest independently-owned industrial construction companies. Its subsidiary DF Barnes has been a major employer in the oil and gas, fabrication and marine industries for over 80 years.

DF Barnes CEO Jason Fudge said: “Scotland has been an admired world leader in the offshore oil and gas and renewable energy sectors, and we are delighted to join with the employees of BiFab and the people of Scotland to ensure the continued growth of BiFab for the benefit of all. This is a great day for us.”

Its VP in Business Development Sean Power added: “We are looking forward to a long and successful partnership with BiFab. We will work closely with management and the union representatives to ensure continuity for the people who work for the company. We are sensitive to the commitment that employees have made to BiFab and will work hard to meet their expectations.”

The rescue deal was welcomed by trade unions and opposition parties.

Mark Ruskell, energy spokesman for the Scottish Greens, said: “Communities around the Burntisland, Methil and Arnish yards have fought hard for their future and I’m delighted this breakthrough has been secured today. This is the strongest vote of confidence in the skills and determination of workers at the yards.”

Labour’s economy spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said: “This is very much welcome news about BiFab.Everyone wants this deal to work and we salute the efforts of the workers for their unstinting campaign to save these yards. Redundancy notices still hang over a number of the core workers at BiFab and it is essential the new owners now lift this threat to retain skilled labour. It is also essential there is a continuing role for trade unions, not just in terms of recognition agreements but also a seat at the table to help secure the future of the yard.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie also welcomed the news, but warned staff still needed assurances about the future. “I am delighted the deal with JV Driver is now agreed. I welcome the news and my first question to the new owners is what this means for the 260 staff who were told to expect redundancy by the end of this May,” he said.

The GMB and Unite unions said they hoped it was the start of a “very bright future for our members and their families”, adding: “This would not have been possible without the determination and solidarity of the workers and their communities and of course, the continued efforts of the Scottish Government and their staff...We look forward to meeting with the new owners ... to learn of their plans and to help secure the necessary contracts that can help deliver prosperity for Fife, Lewis and Scotland.”