By Martin Kelly
That Scottish Government has convened an emergency meeting of the cabinet following the announcement by the owners of the Grangemouth petrochemical plant that it is to close.
The news, which will result in 800 job losses, was met with shock across Scotland, and was described by First Minister Alex Salmond as “hugely disappointing” and “the position we always feared”.
The announcement follows the growing stalemate between the owners of the plant and the UNITE union after negotiations broke down last week. Both sides failed to return to the negotiating table despite the union pledging a no strike policy into the new year.
Local politicians have joined together in demanding the owners fire up the plant in order to prevent lasting damage. Ineos initiated a cold shutdown last week, citing fears that the union would call a surprise strike.
The Scottish Government has begun to look at contingency options, including actively pursuing potential buyers, as a matter of extreme urgency.
Speaking following the meeting this afternoon of a Scottish Cabinet sub-committee to discuss the situation at Grangemouth, First Minister Alex Salmond said:
“The Cabinet sub-committee has met again this afternoon to discuss the on-going situation at Grangemouth. The Scottish Government is clear that we are not prepared to accept that the closure of plant’s petrochemical facility is inevitable.
“We strongly believe there is still room for negotiation between both parties. This is demonstrated by the fact that Unite have now put forward fresh proposals to the company. I have also spoken personally this afternoon to both the Union leadership and to Jim Ratcliffe of Ineos.”
Unite’s Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty said the announcement “has confirmed our fears that this was the intention of Ineos all along”.
He added: “Discussions have taken place with the company this morning and will continue over the course of the day. We have made further proposals in a last-ditch effort to stave off these catastrophic job losses which we believe are tantamount to economic and industrial vandalism.
“Make no mistake, one man is holding this workforce and this country to ransom and that man is Ineos owner Jim Ratcliffe. The ball is now in the court of Jim Ratcliffe and the respective governments in Edinburgh and Westminster and we await their responses.”
Mr Salmond added: “We should give time for the proper consideration of this offer, especially given that we know an agreement between both sides was very close last week, and the prize is a viable future for Grangemouth.
“However, given that the current position is the one we always feared possible given the stalemate between the sides, if an agreement between Ineos and Unite is not possible then we will continue to pursue our contingency options of finding a buyer for the site.
“As the Cabinet sub-committee agreed, the last thing anyone should do is write off Grangemouth.
“This is a hugely important plant for the Scottish economy and one with a viable future. That is why the Scottish Government is determined to work with all parties to protect jobs and deliver a secure future for Grangemouth.”
[Newsnet Scotland has this evening initiated a petition calling for both the Scottish and UK Governments to work together in order to save the Grangemouth facility. If you would like to add your name to the petition you can do so by clicking HERE.]