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A VOICE FROM WESTMINSTER


There was another blow for Levenmouth last week when DF Barnes, the Canadian owners of BiFab, announced that they were withdrawing their bid to build jackets for wind turbines at a huge wind farm off the Fife coast. The owners apparently assumed that the Scottish Government would put up the money for the necessary financial guarantees but with over £50 million of public money already invested in the firm, a further big cash injection from the Scottish Government would have been unlawful. Scotland’s Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop has offered to meet local MPs and MSPs on this.

I had recently written to the UK Government about their “Contracts for Difference” scheme for investing in major renewable energy projects. The Government could quite lawfully have insisted on a significant chunk of any contract being sourced from local suppliers, but they chose not to do so. The result has been that contracts such as the recent “Seagreen” contract have been awarded to companies on the other side of the world while yards in Methil and elsewhere in Scotland lie idle. I got an unusually quick reply from Kwasi Kwateng, the UK Energy Minister. I’m sorry to say that it included kind words but very little else.

I met with senior management from the TSB to express my anger at their decision to close their branch in Buckhaven, leaving the whole of Methil, Methilhill and Buckhaven without a bank. Despite their claims to have done a detailed assessment of the impact of the closure, when you look closely the whole thing could have been done sitting at a desk by someone who knew nothing about the area. They even got the location of their next nearest branch wrong. 

After several postponements during the covid pandemic it looks like I’ll finally get to ask Parliament on Friday 6 November to support my Private Members Bill on protecting the NHS from future trade deals. The Americans, in particular, have made no secret of the fact that they would love to be able to take it over and run it for a profit. At the moment, despite reassuring words form the UK Government, there’s nothing in law to stop that from happening. The situation is made even more serious by the UK internal Market Bill which would allow a UK Minister to overturn a decision of the Scottish Government, even on entirely devolved matters such as Health, without the approval of either parliament.

Finally, we’re approaching Remembrance Sunday. Covid restrictions will mean there are changes to many of the local wreath laying services. The location of some of our war memorials means it will be difficult to accommodate the large numbers of people who usually attend. I know the Royal British Legion Scotland have been working with the Scottish Government and others to produce guidance to keep everyone safe while giving us the chance to pay tribute to the fallen.

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