Workers and campaigners barred from BlindCraft talks

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Workers, campaigners and MSPs have been excluded from a "summit" meeting called for tomorrow to discuss the future of Edinburgh's closure-threatened BlindCraft factory.

&#149 Staff, MSPs and supporters fighting to save the factory are not invited to the summit.

Enterprise Minister Jim Mather agreed last month to convene a summit, bringing together interested parties in a bid to save the Craigmillar bed manufacturer, which employs around 70 people more than half of whom are blind or disabled.

Invitations have gone out to a range of bodies including trade unions, Scottish Enterprise, government departments and the RNIB. But BlindCraft employees, campaigners fighting to save it and MSPs who raised the issue in Parliament have not been invited.

The council is nearing the end of a 30-day consultation on two options - completely closing the factory or turning it into a "training model", which would also dramatically reduce the number of staff.

Lothians Labour MSP George Foulkes, who proposed the summit but has not been invited, said: "They are trying to keep out anyone who might create problems for them. I fear it's a bit of a sham exercise.

"But I still hope it's successful. We will scrutinise what comes out of it."

Hannah Lister, one of the campaigners fighting to save the factory, has also been left off the invitation list.

She said she had first found out about the meeting in an e-mail from Edinburgh East MSP Kenny MacAskill's office, which assumed she had already heard about it.

"I e-mailed Jim Mather asking who was going to attend and could I attend. He said he was going to pass it on to his office and he was interested in getting more people there."

She has still not been invited to go to the meeting, however.

She said: "I get the impression they are trying to steam roller it through. If there is no-one at the meeting, nothing is going to get done, no new ideas will be brought to the table and they will happily go to the next full council meeting and say it's going to close."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "BlindCraft's future is a matter for the city council. In response to concerns expressed by a number of MSPs during a recent parliamentary debate, the minister agreed to offer to facilitate a meeting to seek a solution. Ultimately it is for Edinburgh council to determine who should be invited."

A council spokesman said: "There has been extensive dialogue with staff, trade unions and other interested parties over the past 18 months regarding the future of BlindCraft. When Mr Mather offered to facilitate a meeting regarding the factory we were happy to take part and hope the meeting will prove to be constructive."