The plant closed last Wednesday when the threat of industrial action by workers prompted owner Ineos to turn the lights off until further notice. The owners are due to meet later today to discuss the future of Scotland’s only refinery.
Unsurprisingly, the Scottish government has taken matters into its own hands. Grangemouth is too big to fail. (With Scottish Power accused of mis-selling - is the energy sector the new banking?) According to Scotland’s finance minister John Swinney, they are looking for another buyer for the refinery and petrochemicals plant.
‘I don't think it will come as any surprise to anyone that the government is looking for alternative options and there certainly will be other players around the globe interested in this particular plant,’ he told BBC Radio Scotland.
‘We have certainly had discussions with other players and the Scottish government will engage in any discussions that are helpful to ensure Grangemouth can continue to make a major contribution to the health and well-being of the Scottish economy.’
Swinney isn’t exaggerating Grangemouth’s importance – it provides most of the fuel for Scotland, Northern England and Northern Ireland. Its entire output represents 10% of Scottish GDP. Its closure isn’t an option.
According to Ineos, the plant is in dire straits financially. It says without further investment and the acceptance of new contract terms by the staff, it will go bust by 2017.
Unite has said the workers rejection of Ineos’ new terms should result in a return to talks (and a return to full operations). The firm has said it will communicate the shareholders’ views to the workforce tomorrow.
The Scottish government is obviously reluctant to wait and find out what Ineos decides to do. It has ruled out state ownership of the plant but is confident there is a ‘buyer out there.’ Well, we hear the Chinese are in the market for a new energy investment…