Nicola Sturgeon is “cautiously optimistic” that a new buyer will be found for two closure-threatened steel plants as she met workers and management on site today.
Owner Tata Steel has agreed to help the Scottish Government in the search to find new operrators to take over the mills in Motherwell and Cambuslang after announcing this week they will be mothballed by the firm with the loss of 270 jobs.
Ms Sturgeon visited the Dalzell and Clydebridge plants in Lanarkshire today and announced that modern apprentices employed on site would have their training guaranteed should there be a gap in their employment.
Ms Sturgeon said: “I firmly believe that there is a future for steel manufacturing in Scotland and nothing I have seen today has diminished that opinion. Together with the workforce, unions and others, the Scottish Government will continue to take every action to secure the future of this industry.”
Asked if she believed a new buyer could be found, Ms Sturgeon said she is “cautiously optimistic” but did not want to raise unrealistic expectations.
Fergus Ewing, the Business Minister, is leading a the Scottish Government taskforce which aims to find a new buyer for the plant and will make a statement on the steel industry to the Scottish Parliament when it returns from recess next week.
The quality of the work done at these sites is outstanding and it is clear that all of the workers have a great deal of pride in what they do.Nicola Sturgeon
About 5,000 jobs have been lost across the UK steel industry in recent weeks, with much of the blame being put on cheap imports from China, as well as high energy costs and a strong pound.
Tata is also shedding about 900 jobs at its plant in Scunthorpe.
Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish announcement has been “extremely distressing” for the workforce.
She added: “It was important for me to visit the sites today to hear first-hand their perspective on this difficult situation.
“The quality of the work done at these sites is outstanding and it is clear that all of the workers have a great deal of pride in what they do.
“During my visit, I was struck by the determination of everyone on site to keep these plants open and I was able to reassure them that the Scottish Government will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to help them do that.”
The Government taskforce will bring together unions, local authorities, politicians and other agencies to focus on identifying new owners, maintaining the operation and retaining the highly skilled jobs.