‘THE PRIME Minister’s promises are nothing more than hot air,’ the GMB trade union said in response to Boris Johnson’s speech to the virtual Tory Party Conference on Tuesday.
Jude Brimble, GMB National Secretary, said: ‘The Prime Minister loves to promise the grass is greener in the sunlit uplands – without any kind of proper plan. It’s not going to wash anymore.
‘The UK desperately needs huge investment in green energy infrastructure and the millions of jobs that would create.
‘But previous promises of green jobs have seen yards in Britain mothballed and manufacturing contracts outsourced overseas.
‘The Prime Minister is relying on powers the UK may or may not have post-Brexit. Once again his promises look like nothing more than hot air.’
Johnson’s pledge that every UK home will be powered by electricity from offshore windfarms by 2030 and that £160m will be spent on building more wind turbines is ‘hollow words’ under the current UK government, said Unite Scotland.
The union described the Prime Minister’s pledge to commit 60 per cent of the turbines to be manufactured in the UK as ‘rehashed rhetoric’ following the recommendation by the UK Offshore Wind Industry Council (OWIC) in March 2018 to the UK government that Supply Chain Plans should achieve 60 per cent of life cycle costs to be UK sourced by 2030.
In recent weeks SSE has announced that Scottish-based firm BiFab had not secured any contract work from the Seagreen project with all of the platforms for its 114 turbines to be manufactured in China and the United Arab Emirates.
This follows the minimal work awarded to BiFab by EDF through the Neart na Gaoithe (NnG) offshore wind farm project, which will consist of 54 turbines.
Unite has also repeatedly highlighted the depressing situation of the Macrihanish based Wind Turbine company CS Wind, which has been sitting idle since November 2019.
The yard is the only UK facility manufacturing onshore and offshore wind towers.
Unite Scottish Secretary Pat Rafferty, said: ‘The announcement by the prime minister that the UK will commit to 60 per cent of turbines to be manufactured domestically is rehashed rhetoric.
‘The UK government has repeatedly failed to act on recommendations for years and belatedly adopting this target only serves to highlight their years of inaction and abandonment of the domestic supply chain.
‘The onshore and offshore wind sector in Scotland is on life support.
‘We have the BiFab yards and CS Wind in Campbeltown sitting idle.
‘The prime minister’s pledge is hollow words for these communities.
‘SSE is awarding work everywhere but Scotland.
‘EDF is awarding scraps from the table.
‘CS Wind’s Korean owners have mothballed its factory. Talk is cheap.
‘We need action and we need that right now.
‘We urgently need the Contracts for Difference Scheme totally reformed to legally ensure that domestic based firms are guaranteed work from the billions of pounds being poured into the on and offshore wind sector.
‘The reality is that the people of Fife, Lewis and Argyll and Bute haven’t seen a penny of it.’
Meanwhile, Unite’s London office warned that Boris Johnson’s pledge that every UK home will be powered by electricity from offshore wind farms by 2030 revealed ‘a poverty of ambition’, compared with the vast sums that France and Germany were investing in this sector.
Unite said that Johnson’s promise at the virtual Conservative party conference was a welcome late-conversion to windfarms, but questioned whether there was an over-reliance on wind, when a future energy policy should include a ‘mix’ of supply, including low carbon nuclear.
Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: ‘We welcome the prime minister’s conversion to offshore wind farms, but what it reveals is the poverty of ambition compared with France and Germany.
‘The spending proposed by Boris Johnson pales into significance with the vast sums that our main European competitors have invested in this sector.
‘The commitment for 60 per cent of the turbines to be manufactured in the UK only highlights that much more could have been done to invest in this sector and the jobs boost that would have been created.
‘This was highlighted by the closure of Vestas on the Isle of Wight a decade ago.
‘The Johnson rhetoric will turn out to be a mirage without a strong economy, retention of skilled jobs and investment in apprenticeships – and this means that chancellor Rishi Sunak needs to continue to do much more to protect employment as we go through the coronavirus pandemic.’
Unite national officer for energy Peter McIntosh said: ‘What we are waiting for is the government’s much-delayed energy White Paper which will show how the UK reaches its pledge of net-zero carbon emissions across all forms of energy by 2050.
‘This will include low carbon nuclear and renewables, such as wind power.
‘What the prime minister spoke about today is only a partial picture of what needs to be done to keep the lights on for industry, business and the consumer.’
Unison assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said: ‘Unfortunately, the government’s track record isn’t great and ministers are falling behind their own legally binding net-zero targets.
‘Promises to decarbonise electricity though offshore wind are welcome, but it’s only part of the challenge.
‘Doing the same for the heat and transport industries is vital, as is sorting out storage for the days when there’s no wind.
‘Let’s hope the Prime Minister’s pledge of more wind power is not just his usual hot air and bluster, which won’t be enough to keep the lights on or warm the nation’s homes. Firm action is needed, and fast.’
Commenting on Johnson’s hint at expansion of the National Tuition Programme (NTP), Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said: ‘Boris Johnson has been keen to present himself as a hero for disadvantaged young people but has so far not come up with the goods.
‘It is hoped that the National Tuition Programme will go some way towards boosting individual support, but we need a different approach to education during Covid, not “normal expectations” plus some tutoring on the side.
‘The idea of meeting individual needs is the right one, but the government is sending mixed messages – sometimes recognising this isn’t a normal year, but then also pressing ahead with exams and standard tests as if normal teaching time did occur last year.
‘The ideological obsession with the private sector’s ability to deliver has been thoroughly tested during Covid and left wanting, and there is no reason to suppose the NTP will be any different.
‘Untested, rushed plans will always lead to dysfunction.
‘What is presented as a magic solution for disadvantaged young people could result in less time being spent with qualified teachers.
‘Schools should instead receive this money direct and target that extra support as they see fit, based on their plans to re-engage students, rather than see it allocated for unqualified tutors.
‘In a poll of NEU members published at the weekend, 51% reported they had witnessed a “significant increase” in hardship amongst their pupils since March.
‘In 2018-19 some 4.2 million in the UK were trapped in poverty, but by Christmas, 200,000 more children will be pushed below the poverty line.
‘The tuition programme can’t be used to hide from making the overall changes to assessment and exams needed this year, which must be driven for what’s realistic for students and fair for teachers.
‘The government can do much more to ensure no child is left behind. Real differences could be made if they were to address hunger, not least during school holidays. We also need affordable uniforms.
‘The government must redouble its efforts to meet the need for IT and wi-fi, which nearly half a million young people are still awaiting after months of broken promises.’
Commenting on the latest statistics released yesterday, Courtney said: ‘The increase in the number of secondary schools with partial closures, under public health advice, reflects the continued spread of coronavirus amongst the population and teenagers in particular.
‘Schools need the government to take more robust action to bear down on coronavirus infection rates and to provide quick testing for pupils and teachers.
‘84% of NEU members in our latest survey have said they do not trust Boris Johnson’s government to keep schools safe, to protect workers, to listen to the profession, to support vulnerable or disadvantaged children, or to ensure exams and assessment are fit for purpose during Covid.
‘This should be a point of acute embarrassment to government and a clear indication that they are not doing enough to ensure our schools and colleges remain open safely.
‘The NEU has been calling for months for the boosting of the track, trace and test throughout the country, and the creation of a Plan B for schools and colleges which outlines contingency plans for possible local or national lockdowns to ensure a continuity of learning for all young people.
‘Failure to implement even basic effective measures is causing additional stress and concern for schools, parents and the wider school community.’