Local representatives unite to demand action from CS Wind

The first ever large-scale offshore tower being produced at CS Wind UK, for the Walney Project owned by DONG energy. Photograph by Raymond Hosie.

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Four Kintyre councillors have joined forces with Unite the Union and Argyll and Bute’s MP and MSP to issue an open letter to the South Korean owners of CS Wind urging them to seek orders for the plant or let others take over the operation.

The document has been signed by South Kintyre councillors Donald Kelly, John Armour and Rory Colville; Kintyre and the Islands councillor Anne Horn; Michael Russell MSP; Brendan O’Hara MP; Pat Rafferty, regional secretary, and Charlie McDonald, regional officer, Unite the Union; and Kenny Cunningham and David McCallum, senior shop stewards, CS Wind, in the hope of securing employment and a place in the renewables industry for the Macrihanish-based wind turbine company.

The letter has been copied to Scottish Government Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Argyll and Bute Council.

MSP Michael Russell and Unite the Union regional officer Charlie McDonald said: ‘We are keen to see a vibrant, successful renewable industry in Scotland and CS Wind has the opportunity to be a vital part of that, providing high quality employment in Kintyre.

‘But the company must be active in seeking work and, if it had decided not to participate, it must also be honest about that and allow a different structure to emerge which will ensure the skilled work force can contribute to local and national success.’

The letter was sparked following a spate of redundancies at CS Wind last year and its failure in securing contracts for the Scottish factory despite it being the only one in the country.

The signatories further note that, although the company stated gaining new work was a key aim, they had been informed by developers that CS Wind had not been willing to bid for many suitable contracts.

The letter states: ‘We are sure you are aware of the potential that exists for a company that is, as CS Wind has been as a result of the skills and effort of those who have worked there, efficient and productive.

‘It is likely demand for new on shore and off shore turbines will, given projections of applications for energy consent already submitted, due, scoped, being scoped or in preliminary talks, be for at least 1,500 towers.

‘We believe your company would be strongly positioned to bid for a significant proportion of those units. We are also informed developers would like to place contracts with you and support a Scottish renewables manufacturing industry.

‘However, if you maintain your current stance and either refuse to bid or claim that you are unable to do so, developers will have to seek towers elsewhere, outside Kintyre and Scotland. Meanwhile your company will continue to occupy a prime site in an unproductive way, preventing any other potential manufacturer from utilising the facility for which you have had substantial support from Scottish Government agencies and leaving a skilled workforce unemployed or forced to move from the area.’

The signatory group plans to hold a public meeting in Campbeltown when Covid-19 guidelines allow this to take place.

Councillor Kelly told the Courier: ‘Since the inception of the wind towers factory at Machrihanish we have seen a succession of companies come and go, building up the hopes and aspirations of the community time and time again, only to have the rug pulled from under us, creating a boom and bust economy for Kintyre.

‘The only way to resolve this in the long-term is for the government to change policy and insist that if a company is granted planning permission to erect a wind farm in Scotland all the component parts of the towers have to sourced in Scotland. This would go a long way to laying the foundations for long-term sustainable employment for factories such as CS Wind.’

Councillor Armour added: ‘I find it particularly galling to see the continuation of wind farms being constructed in Kintyre but nothing being provided from the purpose built factory right on our doorstep from a first class workforce that did so much to get orders completed on time and even ahead of schedule.

‘The way the workforce was treated was appalling and, at the time redundancies were made, CS Wind said it was actively looking for orders – now is the time to show us that it has these orders and, if not, why?

‘If they are not able or willing to secure orders, I call on them to vacate the premises immediately and give another manufacturer the chance to take over to secure the orders that are out there.’

In a judgement issued by the Inner House of the Court of Session in Edinburgh on Wednesday, it was revealed that CS Wind has failed to overturn a court order preventing it from removing equipment from the Machrihanish site. More information to follow.