Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Revolving doors

It was announced that the orderbook for the Arnish Fabrication Yard is once more empty, people have been laid off and the big yellow crane, used for loading and unloading ships, has been taken away off the island. Over the whole of the period this blog has been in operation, the Fabrication Yard has been highlighted as the salvation of the island’s economy. Unfortunately, that has proven to be a red herring.

There are a couple of factors that stand in the way of long-term security for jobs at the yard. First of all, its geographical location. Anything made at Arnish has to be shipped away (unless it’s for use in Lewis or Harris). Officially, there are only 6 days in the working week; a comment on a previous posting has intimated that work is being done on a Sunday, but nobody talks about that.

The Eishken windfarm looks set to commence construction next year, 2013. Its owner, Mr Oppenheimer, has announced that it could be expanded further. When it comes to building the project, this has to be put out to tender. Any contract valued at more than a few hundred thousand pounds, has to be put to tender on an EU-wide basis. It is not possible to circumvent this requirement, I believe. So, assuming that work on this windfarm will be done by local companies is a wrong assumption.

Much like the schools project, now nearing completion in the islands, it looks likely that companies from outwith the Hebrides will be awarded the projects. The schools project too has had to be put out to tender, and the most suitable bidder was selected to do the work. It is regrettable that local companies lost out, but their bids will not have been good enough. Doing a financial sleight of hand in order to favour local contractors, would have fallen foul of EU regulations - and this country is still in the EU.

Finding a long-term solution to the economic problems of the Outer Hebrides remains a difficult task, and a quick and easy fix, such as windfarms, turns out not to be a true fix.

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