SCOTLAND is at “one minute to midnight” with little time left to benefit from a green jobs revolution, it has been warned.

Billions of pounds of investment are urgently needed and current regulatory regimes will have to be greatly strengthened if the country is to make any real economic gains from the transition to renewable energy, according to union leaders.

The plea for action came as it was reported that there are now doubts over the planned offshore wind tower factory at Nigg, as Spanish manufacturing firm Haizea is believed to be pulling out to focus on domestic production. Scottish headquartered owner Global Energy Group is now said to be looking at a “revised business case” for the development.

“We are rapidly running out of time to gain anything meaningful from our own offshore wind manufacturing sector,” said Peter Welsh, of GMB Scotland. “We are at one minute to midnight, no two ways about it.”

Welsh spoke to the Sunday National following claims that Scotland has missed out on jobs that should have been created in the transition to renewable energy.

And he expressed frustration that union criticism is sometimes dismissed as partisan attempts to undermine the SNP/Green administration.

“If you look at GMB’s track record on this, we have been very blunt with Labour particularly Scottish Labour, where they have been equivocal on energy jobs,” said Welsh.

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“There are no political superheroes here. All have played fast and loose with the rhetoric of green jobs and green industrial revolutions but there is no green industrial revolution happening in Scotland or across the rest of the UK either, so they have all been in the wrong.”

While the chronic manufacturing decline in the country can be traced back to Thatcherism, he said the recent Tory Government of David Cameron and George Osborne had made matters worse through austerity instead of investing in order to grow the economy and create jobs.

“You can’t cut your way out of a crisis, you have to invest, but government didn’t invest in our offshore wind supply chains so workers and communities supported by employers like CS Wind and BiFab suffered badly because of it,” said Welsh.

CS Wind (UK), a South Korean-owned company running the only UK facility for manufacturing onshore and offshore wind towers in Scotland, went into administration nine months ago.

In 2020, administrators were appointed to take control of part state-owned Burntisland Fabrications (BiFab), the insolvent renewables manufacturer run from Canada. Two of its three fabrication yards – Arnish on Lewis and Methil in Fife – were bought out of administration by London-based firm InfraStrata for £850,000. The former BiFab fabrication yard at Burntisland in Fife was not part of the deal and became part of Forth Ports ownership, with Orca Oceanic Systems, an Aberdeen-based dive systems specialist, setting up an operations facility.

Welsh said that as well as the lack of investment from both the UK and Scottish Governments in manufacturing, the way offshore wind projects are being subsidised through energy bills is “punishing the poorest”.

“The result is a situation where we have haemorrhaged the vast majority of the jobs in the manufacture of offshore wind projects to the rest of the world because we have not invested in our infrastructure and supply chains – and the public are footing this industrial failure through their bills.” said Welsh.

“We have a weak regulatory system, insufficient state support, and frankly a complete lack of political leadership to confront this, and that is why the rest of the world is almost exclusively delivering our offshore wind projects while we are getting scraps from our own table.”

There is a “rapidly closing window of opportunity” to rectify the situation but Welsh said the new generation of wind projects planned had already got off to a poor start with contracts for the Moray West development going to companies based in China and the United Arab Emirate.

In addition, the firms that tendered successfully for the new ScotWind leasing round are mainly the same energy firms/marine construction firms that delivered the previous generation of offshore wind.

“There is nothing so far to suggest it is going to be any different, but it could be,” Welsh said. “At the moment, government isn’t doing nearly enough to ensure the companies tendering for these projects commit to infrastructure and supply chain investment and domestic employment. Unions have consistently argued that we have got to have more teeth around the regulations and the ‘commitments’ for economic investment and employment dividends that should come from these contracts.”

While bringing Scotland’s supply chains up to a level that can compete with the rest of the world will now cost billions, Welsh pointed out that at the moment public subsidies were being given to companies to offshore manufacturing to other parts of the world.

“We should redistribute those billions here because we have working class communities up and down the country, in Scotland and across the rest of the UK, that would love to have these jobs and that investment. That would be a ‘fair work’ or ‘levelling up’ agenda, and it could be transformative,” said Welsh.

“The Scottish Government has some influence through marine consents and licencing guidance and the UK Government has the big hook of being able to set subsidies for the power that gets generated in these projects. But unless you have got a credible industrial plan for the delivery of this and you have collaboration across governments the likelihood it is going to be more of the same and it will be the missed opportunity of a generation.

He said windfarms already completed were “an illustration of political failure” because they could and should have been built by a home-based manufacturing sector.

“What it really boils down to is that any politicians that are touting a green jobs revolution just now are part of the problem because the jobs are not getting delivered here,” Welsh said. “It is the rest of the world that are delivering that for us, and we are missing out on a jobs bonanza that we need if we are to have any hope of delivering a credible transition to a low carbon economy.”

He conceded that it is a “long way back”.

“A meaningful share of contracts and jobs is still possible, but it is a stretch because we are years behind in the investment needed and, in some cases, decades behind the manufacturers we are competing with. There are state-backed fabrication yards that are miles long in places like the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia and China – this is what we are up against.

“The big fear is that our political leaders have given up on us having a significant manufacturing chain that is going to deliver the new generation of green jobs. All the difficult questions remain theirs to answer.”

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A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government is fully committed to reaching net-zero emissions by 2045 and transforming Scotland into a fairer, greener and more prosperous country, which is why £2 billion has been committed in low carbon funding to invest in new measures to end Scotland’s contribution to climate change and create green jobs.

“Creating, supporting and monitoring green jobs through initiatives like the Just Transition Fund for the North East and Moray and the Green Jobs Fund will be vital in helping Scotland to secure a truly just transition to net zero, with no person or region left behind. Our Making Scotland’s Future Programme provides support for the manufacturing sector, including through sizeable investment in the infrastructure and expertise required to de-risk innovation investment.

“The ScotWind projects will deliver investment across the Scottish supply chain and help create thousands of good, green jobs, transforming the Scottish economy and accelerating our journey to becoming a net zero nation. Developers are required to provide Supply Chain Development Statements which has yielded commitments to invest an average projection of £1.5bn in Scotland per project, which equates to more than £25bn across the 17 Scotwind offshore wind projects.

“Any action to support meeting Scotland’s ambitious targets is welcome, and the Scottish Government will engage with the UK Government around the Green Industrial Revolution.”

The UK Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy was given a list of questions from the Sunday National including about whether it would collaborate with the Scottish Government, tighten regulations and make more investment in the industry here but failed to answer any of them.