Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Open and shut (repeat at leisure)

The Arnish Fabrication Yard is yet again to be mothballed. As an acquaintance put it this morning, it's now got more mothballs than a wardrobe. It's getting tedious. This is the third time that the Yard has been put on a care-and-maintenance basis, but listen up, folks: this time it's not a company failure. Hurray.

According a spokesman from the Yard, there is a dearth of orders for renewable energy components (such as turbine towers). Even if an order came through today, it would take three months before the Yard could swing into action. The heavy demand for base materials for renewables means that delivery times are long. Right. So, there is such a demand for renewable energy components, yet no orders. Correct. The planning process is putting a spanner in the wheels. Two projects are being considered at present, which the Yard has bid for.

I think everybody is now fully convinced that if you want secure and long term employment in the engineering sector in Lewis, the Arnish Fabrication Yard does not appear to occupy top spot in the listings for reliability. As I indicated in my first paragraph, this opening-and-closing pendulum is once again in full swing. Previously, the closures were due to company failures, with tens of millions of public money going down the drain.

The irony of this whole situation is that the Fabrication Yard, and the work for the Lewis Windfarms (if and when they are given final approval) was supposed to be the salvation of the island economy. It was one of the reasons for Comhairle nan Eilean Siar to approve the North Lewis and Eisgein windfarm projects.

Talking of windfarm projects, it appears that the Eishken estate owner is trying to undo his earlier reduction in windturbine numbers for the Eisgein project by submitting piecemeal applications, each below the 50MW threshold above which Scottish Ministers would have had to give approval. Now the local authority can do it all by themselves. And judging by previous experience, the rubber stamp will take centre-stage in proceedings. I have made my dismay at this tactic clear in an earlier post.

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