BlindCraft staff 'seething' over Salmond's help snub

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Blindcraft workers today said they were "seething" after First Minister Alex Salmond failed to respond to their pleas for help ahead of next month's closure of their factory.

Union representatives of the blind and disabled employees facing redundancy issued an appeal to Mr Salmond after he won last month's Holyrood election, urging him to intervene to save the bed-making workshop in Craigmillar.

But they say they have heard nothing from him.

Fraser Queen, branch secretary of the Community union, an employee at the factory for 23 years, contacted Mr Salmond days after the election result.

Mr Queen said: "I got a response from his PA saying he would be in touch."

Then when the Evening News reported at the end of last month on Community's challenge to Mr Salmond to apply his "no compulsory redundancies" pledge to the BlindCraft factory, a spokesman for the First Minister said: "We will be in touch with the BlindCraft workers in the very near future."

Mr Queen said: "That gave us a wee bit of hope but we've heard nothing since - not a peep. We've been totally ignored.

"The workers are quite distraught."

BlindCraft - which dates back to 1793 - is due to close for good on July 31 to save the city council 700,000 a year.

Lothians Labour MSP Sarah Boyack accused ministers of offering "warm words" about BlindCraft but failing to do anything to halt the closure.

She is due to meet Enterprise Minister Fergus Ewing along with fellow Lothians Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale tomorrow.

"It's a last-ditch attempt to get some action," she said.

"It feels like time is running out and the SNP is just going to let the factory close."

She compared the plight of the BlindCraft workforce to the rescue mounted by Mr Salmond for the similar Glencraft enterprise in Aberdeen.

She said: "He personally got businesses in Aberdeen together and persuaded people to start buying from Glencraft and persuaded businesses to work collaboratively with Glencraft. That's exactly what is required in Edinburgh.

"With the number of hotel developments and student accommodation being built in the city and the forthcoming Commonwealth Games project, it is clear that there were good opportunities to promote BlindCraft products and secure its future.

"When it was in the First Minister's backyard, he was prepared to put the energy in."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "While this remains a matter for Edinburgh Council, we apologise to BlindCraft staff for the delay in responding to the letter, which we are seriously considering. We will make it a priority to get in touch as soon as possible."

The council said stringent efforts were being made to offer retraining, redeployment and interview preparation to remaining staff.