Hundreds facing axe as Edinburgh Crystal cracks

HUNDREDS of workers were facing the threat of redundancy today after a famous city crystal firm plunged into administration after almost 140 years in business.

Edinburgh Crystal, which employs more than 400 people, finally appointed administrator Deloitte after a long financial struggle against falling sales in recent years.

The company had tried to find a buyer, but was unable to attract anyone to take over its factory and warehouse in Penicuik.

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The world-famous firm, which has made crystalware for the Royal Family, sporting stars and politicians, employs the majority of workers at its headquarters in the Midlothian town. It is understood some workers have already been told their jobs will go.

The news comes just two months after its warehouse was hit by a major blaze. The fire in May started in a first-floor office and spread to the ground floor.

The firm has 14 factory outlets and 77 store concessions in Scotland. The company's problems are thought to stem from the decline in popularity of its expensive traditional glassware.

The wife of one worker said staff had been called into an office yesterday lunchtime, where the news had been broken to them. She said: "They were all shocked. Once he had got home, the worry set in and we just started thinking about how we were going to cope."

The mum, who asked not to be named, added: "It's very likely they will all lose their jobs. I think one department has already been told they will go. The majority of people who work there are local people, so if the jobs go there will be a lot of people looking for work in the same place, which is going to be tough."

Joint administrator John Reid said: "The company has suffered from a steady decline in consumer demand for a number of years. As a consequence, losses have been incurred and the directors embarked on a strategy of trying to sell the business. They failed to secure a buyer and have concluded that they cannot continue to trade, appointing us as administrators.

"Despite Edinburgh Crystal's problems, however, the company has a strong brand and a presence in numerous department stores throughout the UK. Our strategy is to continue trading, review the operation, and look to sell it as a going concern."

Midlothian Council leader, Adam Montgomery, said: "Edinburgh Crystal has operated from Penicuik since 1969 and has been a significant employer as well as a popular visitor attraction.

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"The company has been working hard to re-engineer their business in these difficult times and it is regrettable they have had to call in the administrators. We have been in touch with company representatives, including the unions, this morning and will establish what support we can offer."

The Scottish National Party's Christine Grahame called on Scottish Ministers to dispatch an economic task force to Penicuik following the announcement today.

Ms Grahame has now written to the Enterprise Minister warning of the damage that would be caused to the local economy if Ministers fail to act. Ms Grahame, whose constituency includes Penicuik, said: "Penicuik has seen more than its fair share of economic decline in recent years and this is the last thing it needs. I think there is a very strong case to be made for doing all we can to sustain this company."

The company was first founded in 1867, out of an industry that was imported to Leith by the Venetians in the 1600s. Losses were running at 1 million a year in 2004, but the firm still took over Caithness Glass and Selkirk Glass.

Those two subsidiaries are continuing to trade as normal and are not in administration.