800-job renewables plan at Leith Docks dropped

Chas Booth
Chas Booth
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HUNDREDS of new green energy jobs earmarked for Leith Docks have been quietly dropped – sparking claims of “broken promises”.

Proposals to create a wind turbine factory and servicing yard for the offshore energy sector were trumpeted as a major economic boost for the site when they were announced in 2012.

The deal would have seen Spanish wind power firm Gamesa join forces with the docks’ owners, Forth Ports, to create 800 high-skilled 
engineering and manufacturing jobs in Leith.

But a new economic framework for the area drawn up by the council has dismissed the plan, instead saying its future lies in creative and cultural industries, and in better links with the city centre through the extension of the tram line.

The report reveals that the wind turbine factory “is no longer expected to happen”, and says the Port of Leith is “not expected to create jobs of sufficient scale and diversity to meet the area’s needs”.

It goes on to say: “It is therefore essential that the council and its partners investigate the options for alternative sources of employment.”

Gamesa told the Evening News that it would stick to its investment pledge, but could not provide any details.

Leith Green councillor Chas Booth said an opportunity was being missed at the docks.

He said: “National and local politicians were happy to create a big splash in the press three years ago when announcing that Gamesa was coming to Leith. So local people are entitled to feel let down now as not one of the promised 800 jobs has materialised.”

Cllr Booth added that while Leith has missed out on the renewables boom, other coastal cities such as Hull had made deals to bring cutting-edge offshore wind manufacturing to their neglected ports.

He said: “There’s some searching questions for Forth Ports to answer on whether it is doing enough to match the competition and really open up opportunities for Leith.”

In January it was revealed that Leith has lost 3500 jobs in the past five years, making it one of the hardest-hit areas of Edinburgh following the global recession.

In a joint statement, the city council, Forth Ports and business agency Scottish Enterprise said: “Leith has the potential to support offshore wind developments, however, it is widely recognised that the industry has not progressed as quickly as first anticipated.

“Whilst there are a number of projects in development which could utilise Leith, market conditions mean these will develop over a longer period of time.

“However, we are continuing to progress consents and work up detailed proposals for a range of port infrastructure enhancements at ports across Scotland, including Leith.”

A spokeswoman for Gamesa said it had signed a joint venture with French firm Areva in March to deliver on investment promises, but gave no timescale for when work would begin.