Vestas to close wind turbine plant at Machrihanish

Friday 22nd August 2008
Cruach Mhor, Argyllshire operated by ScottishPower. In operation 2004. Supplier Vestas whose factory at Machrihanish, supplied most of the wind turbine equipment Courtesy:

In 2001 Vestas of Denmark has confirmed plans to build a £10m wind turbine manufacturing plant at Campbeltown on the Mull of Kintyre with the creation of about 100 jobs, with funding to be provided by Highlands & Islands Enterprise. In 2003 new investment to Scotland, included Vestas which established a turbine manufacturing base at Campbeltown, bringing 130 jobs to the area - jobs important at a time when employment in other parts of the energy sector, particularly oil and gas, is declining. In August 2006, Vestas shed 40 of its 170 workers.
Now although Vestas website claims 'In 2008, our more than 15,000 employees will welcome 2,500 new colleagues' Vestas Celtic has announced its intention to close its wind turbine tower plant in Kintyre with a loss of 92 jobs, greeted with shock bythe work force and the whole of Kintyre.

‘The wage bill alone for Vestas is said to be around £2.5m that is a huge loss to the local economy said council leader Dick Walsh, after Argyll and Bute Council called an emergency meeting this week. Councillors met with Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Alan Reid MP for Argyll and Bute to discuss ways to try and save the factory.

Knud Bjarne Hansen, president of the towers section of Vestas, who helped set up the factory broke the news to the work force (right). ‘A lot of people have been expecting this for a while, but we didn’t expect it so soon,’ one member of staff at Vestas Celtic told The Courier, ‘We have had this hanging over our heads from when the nacelles [plant] closed. They said they’d look again in a year and they let it lie for two years.’

As soon as he heard the news Alan Reid MP went to the factory and he and Councillor Rory Colville met  Hansen and later with some of the work force. "He told us the only way that Vestas would keep the factory open would be if they were given an order for 300 turbines on the west coast within the next three months; given the time it takes this looks like an impossible condition," said Reid .

Jim Mather MSP for Argyll and Bute and Minister for Enterprise Energy and Tourism spoke of his deep concern and gave an undertaking that if there are practical steps that can be taken by the Government to safeguard the jobs these will be explored.

‘Clearly the scale of these redundancies is enormous, relative to the size of the Campbeltown economy and we must do absolutely everything in our power to recover the situation,’ he said. Mather will come to Campbeltown to meet staff, union personnel and management at the factory along with HIE, councillors and council officials to, as he said ‘explore all options and make sure we fully utilise local and national government support services’.

‘For Kintyre to lose 100 private sector jobs would be the equivalent of the Royal Bank of Scotland closing in Edinburgh,’ said Mather.

Unite, the trade union representing workers at Machrihanish called on the Scottish government to intervene. Scottish secretary John Quigley said: ‘The announcement is absolutely devastating for the work force, their families and the local community. Vestas is a company in profit with a bright future due to the increasing demand for renewable energy resources.

This decision makes a mockery of their ‘people before megawatt’ principle. Profit before people would be more fitting given the circumstances. The SNP has told us that renewables are fundamental to their energy policy. Where does it leave this policy if they cannot even retain the means of production in Scotland?’

Jamie MacGrigor MSP said it was ‘highly ironic when windfarm construction is such a growth industry and Vestas appears to have good order book’.


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