JOBS TASKFORCE NEEDED TO TACKLE LONG TERM ECONOMIC CHALLENGES FACING UPPER NITHSDALE, SAYS COLIN SMYTH

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has written to the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon urging the Scottish Government to take long term action, including establishing a Jobs Taskforce, to grow the economy in Upper Nithsdale.

The call was made following the recent announcement of the closure of EME Furniture in Sanquhar with the immediate loss of 38 jobs. Having spoken with the owners of EME Furniture, British Thornton Direct Ltd, Dumfries and Galloway Council and Scottish Enterprise, the local MSP believes there is little chance of the decision being reversed despite the company entering into a formal consultation process. He fears that with few major alternative employers in the area and poor transport infrastructure, finding alternative employment for all existing staff will be a challenge. This promoted the MSP to write to the First Minister seeking long term support for the economy in the area.

Colin Smyth said, “The loss of 38 jobs may not seem a large number of job losses to some. But in a small, former mining community which already suffers from high levels of unemployment, it is devastating news for the community and the workforce, a number of whom have been with the furniture factory for decades during its 53 years in the town. It is clear from discussions I have had with the owners that the decision won’t be reversed.

Having spoken to the local council and Scottish Enterprise I’m aware that immediate PACE support for the workforce is underway but given the already higher than average level of unemployment in the area, finding alternative employment for all staff will be challenging.

I have therefore written to the First Minister to ask her consider carefully what long term support can be provided to an area that suffers poor transport links and has very few alternative employers, including establishing a Government backed jobs taskforce to consider how we can grow the local economy in Upper Nithsdale and bring badly needed jobs to what is all too often a forgotten area.”