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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain


Nothing to boast about

by our Scottish political affairs correspondent

The genius of the SNP Government’s industrial policy has recently been demonstrated by the fact that two offshore engineering yards belonging to Bifab Fabrications have been sold for a maximum of £850,000 to Harland & Wolff. £650,000 (the price of a small London flat) will be paid in cash with the remaining £200,000 paid if group turnover exceeds £74 million in the next two years.

The sale came after a titanic £37.4 million had been invested in Bifab by the SNP Government to save them from closure in 2017. This gave them a 32 per cent stake in the struggling Canadian-owned company before they finally pulled the plug in October, which lead to Bifab going into administration in December. That decision to remove support meant the loss of a major contract for wind turbine jackets for a windfarm just miles from the yard.

failure

The major unions involved, GMB and Unite, welcomed the saving of two of the three yards, but pointed out that the tale “has been one of government failure” and demanded that local supply chain clauses to be “in-built at the outset of major contracts”.

Unite Scotland Secretary Pat Rafferty and GMB Scotland Secretary Gary Smith buried their hatchets to say: “Thousands of jobs and billions of pounds have been outsourced around the world when Scottish communities should have been benefitting from these contracts.”

Perhaps more in hope than expectation, they added: “Now the Scottish and UK Governments have been given a reprieve and they need to step-up and support the new ownership.”

Scottish Tory finance spokesman Murdo Fraser gloated: “The SNP Government have squandered far too much public money previously with their atrocious mismanagement of the operations at these yards.”

STUC general secretary Roz Foyer drew attention to the fact that one of the three yards had been effectively abandoned, saying: “We will continue to press for a solution for the Burntisland yard, which is not included in this deal. This is just the start of our battle for a plan for jobs in manufacturing and renewables in Scotland.”

This is not the first time that the SNP Government has been involved in an expensive failure. In 2015 an SNP-supporting businessman was hastily awarded a contract to build two huge ferries for the state-owned ferry company, Caledonian McBrayne. This was allegedly to save jobs at the last civilian shipbuilder on the Clyde but was in fact a back of a cigarette packet plan devised to grab headlines from an announcement by the Tory Government to invest in the nearby nuclear weapons base at Faslane.

The SNP forgot that the yard was too small for the two huge ships. To compound the folly, the ships are actually too big for most harbours in the Western Isles they are supposed to service. The £97 million contract has risen to at least £230 million due to arguments between McBrayne’s (or the SNP Government) and the builders about who was responsible for design changes. Intended to be in service in 2018, the possible earliest date is 2023. Some of the increase was spent on painting “windows” on the ships to make them look better for ministerial visits, and much more will be spent on removing rusted parts.

On dry land things are no better. The famous Aberdeen by-pass was opened two years overdue with an extra £64 million bill. The 2016 SNP manifesto promise of 100 per cent superfast broadband coverage by this May is pie in the sky, very little of the promised £600 million has been spent.

Wonderful

The money seems to have spent on government advertising, a budget which has more than tripled since 2017 because it is essential to tell people how wonderful the SNP are – especially when there is no evidence to support that hypothesis.

It is not just in the field of commerce that that SNP mismanages vast sums of money. Hospital building seems to be another area where the SNP seem to learn nothing from their errors. Spending £840 million on the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow was not enough to prevent sewage leaking into operating theatres and pigeon droppings contaminating patients. It also has Grenfell Tower-style cladding. Nobody in the SNP raised a single query about these matters but a few used to sit outside the hospital to protest about its name. The problems with this building have been paralleled across the country in Edinburgh, where a long-delayed children’s hospital originally planned to open in 2012 sits empty whilst parts of it have to be rebuilt.

There is also another bill that could amount to anything from £25–£100 million, but with even less to show for it than a rusting ferry. This is compensation to two businessmen maliciously prosecuted in 2014 by the Crown Office for their administration of the bankrupt Rangers football club.

Another waste of money is the SNP’s Social Security Scotland (SSS), which we hear little of these days because it is so far behind schedule and has done more to benefit private contractors than the poor it is supposed to serve, and has accumulated start-up costs of more than £650 million, twice the original estimate. Countless bucketloads of money have been spent on SNP vanity projects such as the new Forth Road Bridge, which frequently has to close because it cannot cope with snow. The new BBC Scotland TV channel that the SNP demanded for decades seems to show nothing but repeats of repeats to an ever-declining audience.

There have of course been many economies made. A £100 million fund to remove unsafe cladding from flats has gone unspent whilst in the European country with the highest drug deaths, the prevention budget has been cut.

Whilst regular readers will be well informed about the legal (and possibly illegal) battles involving the past and present First Ministers, it has been easy to overlook the fact that an unusually high percentage of SNP parliamentarians have a habit of finding themselves in the dock.

At present two SNP MPs are facing criminal charges. Rutherglen MP Margaret Ferrier is facing charges for travelling to and from Westminster whilst knowingly infected by COVID-19. Another is facing a lesser charge of challenging a neighbour to a fight. A former SNP MP Natalie McGarry is presently going through the legal process over her conviction for stealing £25,000 from an SNP front organisation.

None of this, however, seems to worry the average SNP voter who blithely disregards exposures of every single failing.