Thank you very much, convener. I will start off and Councillor Adams will then speak about the economic impact and, in particular, the supply chain, which is an important point.
We were asked here to talk about the economic impact of closure, and we will do that, but the first point to emphasise is that we are here primarily as part of the campaign to support Longannet in a longer-term transition to a cleaner form of power generation.
The views put forward by Mr Clitheroe from Scottish Power are very similar to the views of Fife Council. We have always had very good relationships with Scottish Power. It has been a good employer, and it has gone out of its way to do community engagement well. It has been a high-quality employer, and it has always been an excellent partner with the council. The council recently passed a motion of support for the campaign against premature closure of Longannet, and there is a unified cross-party position on the council on that.
In terms of economic impact, we are obviously and correctly focused this morning on the 260 direct employees at Longannet, but towards the end of Mr Clitheroe’s contribution he talked about the supply chain. I think that he gave a figure of 500 to 700 people involved in the supply chain and as contractors, and that figure chimes with our analysis, which we have done using standard industry multipliers that are available through Scottish Government.
We would estimate that potentially there are around 600 indirect jobs that depend on the facility and an additional 200 induced jobs, which would be jobs in local shops and hospitality facilities that are supported by the wages coming out of the plant. From our perspective, we believe we are talking not about 260 direct employees but about 1,000 jobs across the central belt, not just in the west Fife villages, Longannet and Kincardine, but across the central belt. There would be a very significant impact. That is the context in which we must consider the response to any potential closure.
In particular, I know that Councillor Adams wants to talk about the impact on the coal industry. I am sure members will not need any history lesson from me on the recent phenomenal pressures on the coal industry and the ups and downs of that. The Scottish Government coal task force is a very important part of the response. Clearly, Longannet consumes a very large amount of coal from the remaining Scottish opencast mines, and two local ones—Muir Dean and St Ninian’s, I think—still both supply the plant. There would be a very significant impact from closure. There would be an economic impact, but there would also be an impact on the restoration and the environmental impact of those operations and the ability of the operators to ensure an orderly restoration strategy.
Fife Council’s position is very clear. We support the position as articulated by Scottish Power and the need for an orderly rundown and transition of the site. If the economic circumstances are correct, we will broadly be supportive of a transition to a cleaner form of thermal generation on the site. We think there is an incredibly important infrastructure at Longannet that should not go to waste. It is strategically well located for Scotland. We do not anticipate that a replacement facility would be required to be anything like as large as Longannet, but certainly—looking beyond the 2020 horizon that Mr Clitheroe set out—we believe that, if the economic circumstances and the charging regime change, a gas-fired combined cycle gas turbine facility would be probably a beneficial option for us to explore.
There is a degree of frustration within the community and within the council. I am sure Councillor Adams would like to articulate that a little more. We believe that we should have had five to 10 years to plan for this transition, and realistically it has only been since October last year that we have had any real visibility of the potential of closure of the facility in 2016.
Given time, we would like to lessen the dependence of the Kincardine and west Fife villages on that large, single employer. We would like to do more work on enterprise and entrepreneurship to stimulate a start-up culture and many smaller firms. We would like to ensure that there is a supply of physical business infrastructure, such as employment land and facilities for start-up businesses—perhaps a business incubator in small industrial units—to provide alternatives to the large, single employer that we have. We would certainly like to pick up an accelerated strategy on those actions with support from the other partners. Again, Councillor Adams will say a little more about that.
Finally, in the event that the station does close, there is a well-trodden path through the partnership action for continuing employment, the multi-agency response group that the Scottish Government, the council, the Department for Work and Pensions, and Skills Development Scotland would jointly lead on. There would be a strong response to support the existing workforce in considering other options through that work.
We would want probably some kind of task force approach, similar to the task force put together for Hall’s of Broxburn and other similar major closures. It might require a multi-council response, because the economic impact would not stop at the boundaries of Fife. The impact would run across the central belt and into Falkirk, Clackmannanshire, Stirling, Perth and Kinross and further south, so we would need to engage with partner councils as part of the approach.
With those words, I will hand over to Councillor Adams.