Following the first formal meeting of the Longannet Task Force which took place on Monday at the Longannet Site Cllr Lesley Laird, Deputy Leader & Spokesperson for Economy & Planning said “This a regrettable position for the employees and their families and even although the announcement was anticipated it is nonetheless a shock when faced with the reality of ending employment and supply chain relationships that have existed in local communities for a very long number of years. Scottish Power have already been very active in supporting their employees and this is to be commended.
This wider task force group will now pick up on the work already started through the two earlier meetings of the Task Force which was set up after calls from Fife Council to ensure that advanced preparation work should be undertaken. Cllr Laird said ‘I am glad that our calls to for the early task force were taken on board as these earlier meetings have been very helpful in getting key agencies such as PACE, SDS and Scottish Enterprise round the table and for early analysis of the workforce and supply chain to be identified, as it will not just be Fife that will feel the impact of Longannet closing next March. It is clear that the closure will have potentially far reaching affects in terms of the rail and coal industry – which is of course particularly important to Fife given the number of mine restoration projects that are underway. ”
Cllr Laird went on to say that linked to the coal issue was the lobby to the UK Government for support for the Carbon Tax Exemption Scheme. “I have written to the UK Energy Minister, Amber Rudd, on this issue and regret that the UK Government have not yet taken up the invitation to come and visit Fife to see first hand the issues and the potential benefits of this scheme. Given that it has been talked about since 2014 progress has been too slow. The proposed meeting with the UK Government later this week must come forward with a positive outcome otherwise it may be too late to make the desired impact.”
Cllr Laird said’ “In terms of Longannet our focus needs to be ensuring we know what people want to do and what support they will need through either training or educational support. There is a highly skilled workforce at the site and I am sure that many of their skills are transferable and will be in demand from other companies. However, the supply chain issues are more complex and likely to be felt Scotland wide. Assessing that impact will be a key priority and an event is planned for supply chain companies on 31 August to start that process.”
Cllr Laird went on to say “We need to learn the lessons of other sizeable closures which have had far reaching impacts on communities. I raised the issue today that we must now take a strategic view of the area and all its assets in terms of transportation links, water, rail, and jetty potential as well as broader economic development and turn this to our advantage. For example, could it be designated as an Enterprise Zone which would assist with attracting inward investment? We need to ensure that this is not just about short term actions that look like we’re busy doing things and overlook the wider opportunity for attracting investment and development for this area.”
Cllr Laird said, “There is a huge amount of work to be undertaken prior to the next meeting in September and Fife Council will be continuing to push for appropriate support for resources and financial investment that takes account the scale of the impact this closure will undoubtedly bring.”