A united front has been formed on the Isle of Lewis to demand community involvement in determining the future of the 38-hectare Arnish fabrication yard.
The yard is currently being leased by the Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) to engineering company, BiFab. The firm entered administration in December after failing to secure key contracts.
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, the local authority of the Western Isles, said there is local fears over the Arnish lease being sold by the administrator to a buyer as part of an overall disposal of BiFab – without guarantee that it would be in the best interests of the Lewis yard.
As a result, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, the Stornaway Trust and the Action for Arnish campaign group have written to the chairman of HIE requesting a meeting at which assurances would be sought on the conditions of the transfer of the Arnish Leash.
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar leader, Roddie Mackay, said, “There is a short period of time over the next weeks to ensure the BiFab Administrators, the Scottish Government and other interested parties fully understand and are fully appraised in regard to local aspirations around the Arnish yard.
“Highlands and Islands Enterprise has a key role to play and we are keen to engage and work with them to ensure that the strongest possible voice around the strategic needs of both the Arnish Yard and the local economy are heard.”
The chairman of Action for Arnish, Iain MacLeod, added, “This is far too important an issue for the island to be left to Administrators in Edinburgh or HIE in Inverness. We do not want to wake up one morning to find that Arnish is now in the hands of another company who may have no real interest in investing or developing its potential.”
Stornoway Trust factor, Iain MacIver, commented, “The trust recognises the important contribution a fully operational facility at Arnish can play in the proposed development of the west harbour area. To help ensure the fulfilment of that potential we must strive to ensure that those who may seek the control of it are able to demonstrate their ongoing commitment towards its use in the best interests of our island and its workforce.”
Gary Smith, Scotland secretary of the GMB union which is supporting the Action for Arnish campaign, backed the unified approach from the island. He said, “The guidance we have received is that there are several interests in BiFab as a whole but also separate interest in Arnish alone. Decisions are likely to be made soon by the Administrators and it would be outrageous if, once again, Arnish was caught up in a deal to which it is not central.”