AS I SEE IT: TERRY MURDEN says there has been an alarming indifference to AMTE Power’s cash crisis
Tata Group’s decision last week to invest £4 billion in a battery gigafactory in Somerset was met with jubilant support across the political spectrum, which is not surprising given that this is the sort of project the opposition parties have been demanding. Had Rishi Sunak not delivered the subsidies that made it possible, he would have faced an equal amount of scorn.
So why was it that an announcement 24 hours later of the possible collapse of a smaller, yet still significant gigafactory project in Scotland was met with almost total political silence?
AMTE Power, whose plant in Thurso has the second largest cell manufacturing capacity in the UK, wants initially to build a megfactory on the site of the Michelin tyre plant in Dundee, employing 200 workers building up to eight million cells a year.
The project would be upgraded over time to a gigafactory, but the company is running out of cash and if existing and potentially new investors do not find a solution in the coming days it may fall into administration and its shareholders will lose all their money.
The firm has considered siting the plant in the US which is offering more generous subsidies, but Dundee remains its favoured location.
Despite its plight there has been no offer of help from either Westminster or the SNP-Green government. Nothing from the Wellbeing Economy minister Neil Gray or the Greens who may be anti-car but would surely support the development of an electric vehicle sector.
Scottish Labour, which has called for an industrial strategy has said nothing, nor has Labour in London which has called for up to eight gigafactories. Likewise there has been no word from the Scottish Tories, who ought to have been leveraging their government’s success in supporting Tata in order to do the same for AMTE Power.
Battery technology is backed by the UK government as part of its push on new energy sources which makes the near radio silence more baffling..
AMTE Power has entered into a framework agreement governing access to the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre cell manufacturing facility and appeared to be on an upward trajectory. Shares in the company were oversubscribed when it floated on the Alternative Investment Market in March 2021, valued on its first day of trading at £81m. At the close on Friday it was worth just £1.36m.
It’s not known who is in the talks to find a financial solution, but surely this is one for the Scottish National Investment Bank as it ticks all its boxes for supporting green industry.
As things stand this could be another failure of a Scottish industrial project, the loss of another Scottish stock market quoted company and a setback for Dundee which is already up competing with other Scottish cities that are benefiting from green freeport or investment zone status.
Terry Murden held senior positions at The Sunday Times, The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and The Northern Echo and is now editor of Daily Business