NICOLA Sturgeon will today visit two closure-threatened Scottish steel plants as efforts to save them from the axe intensify.
Ministers say they are already trawling through “company and industry data” in an effort to find new buyers for the mills in Motherwell and Cambuslang and have pledged to make a statement to Parliament on the issue next week.
Indian giant Tata Steel confirmed plans this week to mothball the plants with the loss of 270 jobs.
It came as Chinese President Xi Jinping rejected claims that the Peoples’ Republic is to blame for the crisis in the UK industry by “dumping” cheap steel in Europe.
Scottish business minister Fergus Ewing said last night: “The Scottish Government will fight for a viable future for the Scottish steel industry and our priority is to continue commercial production at both affected sites and secure as many jobs as possible.
“We are currently analysing a range of company and industry data to support this work.
A task force set up by Ms Sturgeon to help save the plants, chaired by Mr Ewing, will meet next Thursday.
He added: “The cross-party task force will explore every option and offer strategic direction and advice on the future of the industry. We intend to provide a full update to Parliament next week at the earliest opportunity.”
The First Minister will meet workers, union leaders and management at both plants today.
Labour MSP James Kelly, a member of the task force, said ministers must set out specific actions to secure a future for the steel industry.
“The steel industry is an iconic part of the culture, community and economy of Lanarkshire,” Mr Kelly said. “Generations of families have worked at the plants in Clydebridge and Dalzell. We must move heaven and earth to save jobs and secure a future for the steel industry in Scotland.
“There are a number of steps the SNP government can take, including looking at whether major infrastructure projects being undertaken by the public sector could support the steel industry through the procurement process.”
The task force brings together government, trade unions, North and South Lanarkshire Council representatives, as well as local MSPs and MPs.
Tata Steel announced just a 45 day consultation period on jobs, which Labour say makes the situation even more urgent.
Mr Kelly added: “The SNP government must also take a broader look at the future of traditional industries in Scotland. From shipbuilding to oil and gas to steel, too many industries have been rocked by rapid global forces.
“We need a comprehensive, forensic review into how we secure the future of these industries.”
More than 5,000 jobs have been lost in the UK steel industry in recent weeks with cheap Chinese imports being blamed. But President Xi, in the UK on a four-day state visit, insisted yesterday the steel industry crisis is a global issue of “over-capacity” which can’t be put down to his country alone.
“This is because of the impact of the international financial crisis and the reduction in demand,” President Xi said.
“China’s iron and steel industry is also facing excess capacity and the challenge of how to take this forward. China has taken a series of steps to reduce the capacity. We have reduced by more than 700 million tonnes of production capacity and you can just imagine our task in finding jobs for those workers.”
David Cameron pledged the UK government will take action on energy costs and to ensure that British steel is used in major domestic projects, with London’s new Crossrail development using “almost exclusively British steel”.