NICOLA Sturgeon has vowed to “leave no stone unturned” in an attempt to secure the future of the Scottish steel industry as the axe hangs over its 400 jobs.
The First Minister pledged to create a taskforce to find a “viable future” for Scotland’s last major steel plants if their operator announces closure plans as expected this week.
Union leaders have called on the governments at Holyrood and Westminster to intervene to save 1,200 jobs which are said to be under threat across the UK.
It emerged on Friday that the company, which says it has been struggling with problems including cheaper steel imports and the strength of the pound, was preparing to wield the axe, with a further 800 jobs at risk at a major plant in Scunthorpe.
The company operates the Clydebridge plant in Cambuslang, where it employs about 70 people, with the remainder of its Scottish workforce based at its Dalzell plate-rolling works in Motherwell.
Sturgeon was speaking at the SNP conference in Aberdeen shortly after an emergency resolution was passed urging “immediate action” from the two governments on the fate of the steelworks in Scotland.
She told delegates: “Let me acknowledge that workers at the Tata Steel plants at Dalzell and Clydebridge are this weekend facing an uncertain future.
“The company has not yet publicly confirmed its plans. However, if our worst fears are realised next week, I can confirm that I will immediately establish a taskforce to work with the company, the trade unions and the relevant local authorities.
“And I promise this: we will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to find and secure a viable future for these plants and for our steel industry here in Scotland.”
Central Scotland MSP Clare Adamson, who proposed the emergency resolution along with Motherwell MP Marion Fellows, said: “Since last year, when Tata Steel first announced the potential sale of its long products division, the Scottish Government and its agencies have been in constant contact with both Tata Steel and with the trade unions.
“Such co-operation must continue to explore all possible options to find a viable future for the company’s sites in Scotland.”
Gareth Stace, the director of trade body UK Steel, warned that the industry was “in crisis” and called on Business Secretary Sajid Javid to deliver “now, in days and weeks, not months and years, on energy costs, business rates costs and fair trade”.
Stace added: “What I would say is that we need to stem this flow of blood, not with sticking plasters but now with life- saving surgery.”
Javid, who chaired a crisis summit on the steel industry in Rotherham on Friday, said: “There is no straightforward solution to the complex global challenges facing the steel industry.”