Finance Secretary John Swinney has confirmed that the work of the Hall’s of Broxburn taskforce will continue, despite today’s announcement of a phased run down of the site.
The taskforce will continue to work with the company to find a buyer for the site, and measures will be put in place to help staff looking for work after the announcement, as well as to mitigate the impact on the wider local economy.
It will also draw up a recovery plan to address these issues.
The taskforce was established in July after Vion, the parent company, announced plans to close the West Lothian processing plant. It comprises of the Scottish Government, West Lothian Council, Scottish Enterprise, Scottish Development International, Skills Development Scotland, trades unions, the company and local elected representatives.
The next meeting of the taskforce will be on October 10, which is the deadline Vion has set for buyers to bid for the plant.
The Scottish Government has already been providing support to employees of Hall’s during the 90 day consultation period, which ended on Wednesday, through Partnership Action for Continuing Employment (PACE), and this will continue.
Mr Swinney said:
“This is disappointing news for Scotland and particularly for those working at Hall’s of Broxburn and their families.
“Since Vion announced the proposed closure in July, the Scottish Government and its agencies have taken every action in our power to secure the future of the plant, working with the company and stakeholders.
“We will continue to do so over the coming days. We are still working to secure a buyer, and the taskforce will meet again next week.
“All possible support will be made available to staff, teams have already been on site and resources are in place to help people who are looking at their options for the future.
“We will also work to address the serious potential impact on the local area, and the taskforce will draw up a recovery plan to address this and to find jobs for those affected by today’s announcement.”
JIM McLaren, chair of Quality Meat Scotland, said:
“Today’s news is disappointing and a major blow for Broxburn staff, many of whom are highly skilled and experienced and a valuable asset for the industry.
“While this is also a black day for the Scottish pig industry, it is very important to view today’s announcement in a wider context.
“History has repeatedly shown that one of the great strengths of the Scottish pig industry is its farmers’ ability to adapt and respond strongly in the face of challenge. This professional industry has proved its capacity to exceed customer expectations by delivering top quality, efficiently-produced pigmeat time and time again.
“During the past three months, Quality Meat Scotland, working closely with Vion, the Scottish Government and the wider industry including NFU Scotland, has been busy investigating opportunities behind the scenes.
“As well as brokering links between parties who could have a potential interest in purchasing the Broxburn premises, or parts of that site, we have also been looking at the scope to increase pig slaughtering capacity in Scotland. There is certainly potential to do that at some of the 18 existing pig processing sites in Scotland.
“During the consultation period there has also been unprecedented interest in Scottish pork and pigmeat products resulting in improved understanding of what sets the pig industry in this country apart, such as the priority given to health and welfare.
“Indeed, consumer awareness of the Specially Selected Pork label increased to a record 41% in Scotland this summer following a marketing campaign by QMS.”
Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead added:
“With around 65 per cent of the pigs processed at Hall’s coming from Scottish farms, this difficult news clearly marks an unsettling time for Scotland’s pig industry. However, I can assure pig farmers that Scottish pork remains an important part of our food and drink offering going forward.
“We are monitoring the supply chain situation closely and Quality Meat Scotland are advising the Scottish Government on options, including an alternative plant capable of up-scaling to process the majority of pigs currently consigned to Halls.”
Linlithgow MSP Fiona Hyslop, who has been part of the task force trying to save the plant, said:
“I am extremely frustrated that despite the best efforts of everyone on the taskforce, Vion have taken the decision to proceed with closure. This is a dark day for Broxburn.
“Frankly, Vion have a lot to answer for. They have a loyal, skilled and experienced workforce here which they have abandoned, and they have knocked back every effort that has been made by the Scottish Government and others to find a solution.
“This did not have to happen. Vion has a very good relationship with its customers – such as the supermarkets – and the fact that staff being getting asked to work overtime shows that there is still a market there, but the company have chosen to put their self-interest ahead of that of the workforce. They could and should have avoided this closure.
“In a very short time, the task force has already identified millions of pounds in savings for the plant – it is the workforce who have the knowledge to drive this forward further, but Vion have turned their back on this.
“Despite this, we must continue to look for a solution. The task force will meet again next week and we must now pull together to see how we can move forward.
“But the onus is now on Vion to make a contribution to the community which it has left devastated by this decision.”