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Scottish Government need to buy Pinneys' site, state MP and MSP

A CALL has been made for the Scottish Government to act swiftly to buy the closure-hit Pinneys factory at Annan.

The proposal is being put forward by Dumfriesshire Clydesdale and Tweeddale MP David Mundell and Dumfriesshire constituency MSP Oliver Mundell.

Both politicians warned last night that with an expression of interest in the Stapleton Road site by cooked and sliced meat producers Brown Brothers now withdrawn, urgent steps needed to be taken to safeguard the site.

David Mundell said: "The last thing Annan needs after losing so many jobs is to have a large boarded up factory at the entrance to the town being left to slowly deteriorate.

"We are writing to the Scottish Government calling on them to take on the ownership, management and marketing of the Pinneys site after Young's leave.

"As their contribution to the community, we are asking Young's to release the site at a knock down price.  The new South of Scotland Enterprise Agency or Scottish Enterprise should then promote or redevelop the factory."

Mr Mundell added: "A proactive approach is needed if we are going to get jobs, in whatever form, back on the site."

Young's Seafood announced the closure of the Pinneys factory in April with the loss of 450 permanent jobs and a large number of agency posts.

Oliver Mundell said: "The speed and scale of this number of redundancies in a relatively small town like Annan is devastating, both to those involved and the wider economy.

"It is an exceptional blow to a community, which rightly deserves an exceptional intervention at national level.

"There seems not to be any credible options currently left on the table following the withdrawal of interest by Browns.

"The Scottish Government has taken on sites in such situations before. In the case of loss-making Prestwick Airport they bought the business as well as facilitating financial support to other companies."

YOUNG’S SHOULDN’T PROFIT FROM JOB LOSSES, SAYS MSP

Local Labour MSP Colin Smyth has warned that Young’s Seafood shouldn’t be allowed to profit from the job losses facing Pinneys workers.

The comments come as some politicians have called for the Scottish Government to use taxpayers money to buy the Pinneys site on Stapleton Road from Young’s Seafood.

Colin Smyth has repeated his call made earlier in the week for Young’s to hand over the site, pointing to the fact the factory was now a liability for the company who would face a rates bill of over £110,000 a year when it closes and the current factory is likely to need demolished.

The local MSP believes that the focus of Government investment should be on creating jobs in the area, which could include creating new business units on the site, but funding should not go to Young’s seafood.

Last week Colin Smyth told the Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy, Fergus Ewing that £10million of investment alone would be needed in the Annan area to invest in an ‘Action Plan’ to mitigate against the closure of Pinneys.

The MSP also believes the DG12 area should be given the status of an Enterprise Area by the Scottish Government which would entitle businesses to claim 100% business rates relief, provide allowances for capital investment, a more streamlined planning process and support with skills and training.

Colin Smyth said, “I think there would be anger from workers at Pinneys toward politicians saying that taxpayers money should go to Young’s Seafood and which would allow them to profit from these job losses.  When Pinneys closes, Young’s will still face a business rates bill of a £110,000 a year on top of any spending to keep the building safe and wind and watertight. Pinney’s is in a good location and there will be interest in the site but no one wants the existing factory because it is unsuitable and can’t be easily subdivided into smaller units, so it will need to be demolished.

The site may be an asset for the local economy but it is a liability for Young’s so they should be asked to hand it over to take it off their books. Maybe if the Conservative/ Lib Dem Coalition UK Government hadn’t cut the redundancy consultation period from 90 days to 45 days, the future of the site could have been properly explored during that process. It’s time the Scottish and UK Government started to work together and put their hand in their pocket to invest in job creation in the area. They should also designate Enterprise Area status which would entitle local businesses to claim 100% business rates relief, provide allowances for capital investment, a more streamlined planning process and support with skills and training. So far all we have had from the Scottish Government is £250,000 to develop an Action Plan and not a single penny from the UK Government”.

The Findings Are Out - Quarterly Economic Survey

ECONOMY RESILIENT BUT RECRUITMENT DIFFICULTIES AND PAY SETTLEMENTS SUGGEST WORKFORCE SKILLS REMAIN ON TOP OF BUSINESS AGENDA 
 
The latest Scottish Chambers of Commerce’s Quarterly Economic Indicator survey sees Scottish businesses displaying continued resilience, however, in an uncertain policy and business environment, the results show that expectations are weakening in some sectors.  
Recruitment challenges have also been brought to the fore once again, as firms struggle to find the right skills.  This links to recent ONS data released this week, which seen vacancies rise to 824,000 across the UK, the highest level recorded since equivalent records began in 2001.
The survey, produced by the Scottish Chambers of Commerce Network in collaboration with the University of Strathclyde’s Fraser of Allander Institute, found broadly improving business confidence and revenue indicators across most sectors.  Despite this positivity, investment levels have softened in sectors which had a challenging first quarter, such as retail and tourism.
 
Perhaps linked to persistent recruitment difficulties, all sectors are being driven to increase pay levels for staff.  Linked to inflationary pressures and broader, global competition for key raw materials, it is possible that future activity may be constrained.  However, expectations are relatively stable across sectors for a positive third quarter.
 
KEY FINDINGS / OVERALL NATIONAL RESULTS: • 2018 off to a strong and positive start with confidence and investment rising as firms seek to increase productivity • Only 15% of firms across the sample report declining optimism, suggesting resilient business confidence. • 48% of firms reporting increased overall revenue, with only 18% reporting a decrease. • 89% of firms have increased or maintained levels of investment relative to the previous quarter. • Roughly a fifth of firms reported declines in both cashflow and profitability, with the vast majority of businesses observing stability in these areas.  • Recruitment difficulties rising across sectors, in addition to the proportion of businesses seeking to increase wages. 
 
 
Reacting to the results, Neil Amner of Anderson Strathern and Chair of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce Economic Advisory Group, said:.   “The results for the second quarter of 2018 continue to illustrate, that whilst Scottish firms may be cautious, the economy, particularly in Financial and Business Services, is maintaining levels of resilience in an uncertain policy environment. 
 
“Business optimism remains strong, with positive sentiment for the future growing across the majority of key sectors.  However, we recognise the UK’s exit from the European Union will create a mix of opportunities and challenges. For the minority of surveyed firms that reported lower optimism, the UK’s future relationship with the European Union continues to be cited as one of the key drivers of concern.      “Furthermore, although investment levels have remained broadly positive across many sectors, a softening of growth in sectors such as retail and tourism has been observed.  Both sectors reported rising levels of investment in the first quarter of the year, so Q3 figures will help to understand if this represents more restrained levels of investment in the quarters ahead.  Compliance costs such as those linked to the new GDPR legislation could have acted as a driver of some of the higher investment in the first quarter of the year.
 
“Recruitment difficulties have also returned to the fore once again, as the labour market continues to tighten.  The most recent ONS data has illustrated that both the employment rate, and the number of vacancies in the UK jobs market is at record levels.  With every sector in this report anticipating increasing pay levels, it is clear the challenging labour market is creating heightened competition for those with the right skills. Sectors such as retail which have cut back on broader investment, are also continuing to focus on training, perhaps with staff retention as a key outcome.
 
“The survey results continue to demonstrate that that finding skilled workers is undoubtedly going to act as one of the key challenges for the rest of the trading year.   Firms can play a part in this by continuing to invest in their own staff, as our data suggests that they are.      “It is also crucial that government creates an environment in which the private sector can thrive to create jobs and prosperity in our communities. Domestically, we must invest in digital and physical infrastructure to ensure that Scottish businesses are exploiting new technologies to improve productivity. Internationally, we must ensure that firms are able to seamlessly attract talent to the UK, especially for our developing sectors such as FinTech.  Maintaining the effective and efficient cross-border supply chains which enable many of our manufacturing businesses to thrive is also key to ensuring future trade prosperity. The UK and Scottish Governments must also continue their active support in enabling the private sector to capitalise on our global business connections to help improve Scotland’s exporting performance.”
 
In his foreword to the report, Professor Graeme Roy of the Fraser of Allander Institute comments on the outlook for the Scottish Economy: 
 
“The outlook for the Scottish economy for 2018 is still one of cautious optimism. We expect, reinforced by the findings of this survey, that the Scottish economy will pick up through 2018 and record faster growth than 2017. However, uncertainty about the terms
of the UK exit from the EU continue to make business planning and investment decisions difficult, and acts as a general headwind on growth.”

MSP TO HOLD TALKS WITH RURAL ECONOMY SECRETARY OVER GOVERNMENT’S RESPONSE TO PINNEY’S CLOSURE

South Scotland Labour MSP and Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy Colin Smyth will meet with Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy today (19 July) where the local MSP will urge the Scottish Government to re-think their response to the closure of Pinneys of Annan.

As a result of the recent Cabinet Re-shuffle Mr Ewing took over responsibility for the Government’s response to the closure from former Business Minister Paul Wheelhouse. In response to the closure announced in April by Youngs , an Action Group was established with membership including the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise, Skills Development Scotland, Dumfries and Galloway Council and industry representative Seafood Scotland focused on trying to maintain production at the site. 

With no buyer yet found for the factory, Colin Smyth believes it’s time for a re-think in both the UK and Scottish Government’s response with more focus on creating new jobs in the area for those about to be made redundant by Pinneys owners Young’s Seafood

When calling for the meeting last week, Mr Smyth also urged Fergus Ewing to confirm the release of £250,000 from the South of Scotland Economic Partnership (SOSEP). The funding request came from Dumfries and Galloway Council who want to see a dedicated team in place in Annan to look at ways in which new jobs can be created, either by expanding existing businesses or bringing new ones to the area.

Colin Smyth said, “People are resigned to the fact that Pinneys will close its doors by September with the factory being mothballed. It is increasingly unlikely that there will be a knight in shining armour who will buy the factory and retain the jobs. If we are being honest, most people felt that would be the case as soon as Young’s made their closure announcement in April”.

“We need an urgent rethink in both the Scottish and UK Government’s response that goes way beyond the current token Action Group. I don’t think either Government has yet grasped the scale of what’s happening at Pinneys and the devastation these job losses will have on an already fragile local economy. The long delayed allocation of £250,000 from the South of Scotland Economic Partnership is a start. But my clear message to Fergus Ewing is this is nowhere near enough to put in place the massive measures that are needed to support existing businesses and bring in new ones to deliver the jobs at the level the area needs and more investment is required. Initiatives such as the Jobs Fair also need to happen on a regular basis and not just be a one off.”

The meeting between the local MSP and the Cabinet Secretary today will also include Union officials from UNITE who will join Colin Smyth in urging the Scottish Government to lobby the UK Government to reverse their decision to halve the 90-day consultation period to just 45 days before large-scale redundancies can take place. The cut was implemented by the UK Government in April 2013 and affects all redundancies of 100 or more workers/ UNITE the Union Shop Stewards recently highlighted in talks with Colin Smyth that the 45-day consultation which kicked off in April was insufficient to properly consult the workforce and explore alternatives for Pinneys.

McAlpine welcomes commencement of £1.5 million summer investment in A76

MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed the commencement of resurfacing work on the A76.

 
The work - which is part of Transport Scotland’s £1.5 million summer investment into resurfacing the A76 – will commence on July 14th with the resurfacing of 1.3 km of trunk road near Barburgh Mill Quarry, south of Thornhill.
 
Commenting Ms McAlpine said:
 
“I am pleased that the resurfacing work on the A76 will commence this week. While we are experiencing one of the hottest summers on record in Scotland it is important to plan ahead for the inevitable problems that winter will bring on one of south west Scotland’s most exposed stretches of road.
 
“The A76 was significantly affected by our prolonged winter and repeated freeze-thaw cycles – which is why Transport Scotland has accelerated a number of projects to prepare for the winter months.”
 
Alan Murray, Scotland TranServ’s Principal Roads Design Engineer said:
 
“As part of our £1.5Million summer investment into the resurfacing of the A76, we will be carrying out this short programme of work to improve more than a kilometre of the trunk road network in Dumfries and Galloway. The resurfacing programme is the longest of the suite of projects we are carrying out across the summer months.
 
“Scotland TranServ has worked with local authorities and key stakeholders to carefully schedule the works to avoid impacting on major local events and limit the potential disruption to an absolute minimum. The width of the trunk road in this area and the nature of the programme, allows us to implement a convoy system to manage the traffic flow and manage the safety of the travelling public and our workers.”