Call for Scottish ministers to be represented at EU steel talks

Steel workers at the Tata Steel plant in Motherwell . Picture: PA
Steel workers at the Tata Steel plant in Motherwell . Picture: PA
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Scottish ministers are demanding to be represented at European Union talks on steel, as the industry faces the threat of “devastating” job losses north of the Border.

The talks are being held in the wake of Tata Steel’s announcement that its Scottish sites – Dalzell in Motherwell and Clydebridge in Cambuslang – are to be mothballed with the loss of 270 jobs ,effectively ending steelmaking in Scotland.

Tata, which is also cutting 900 jobs in Scunthorpe, blamed a “flood” of cheap imports, particularly from China, a strong pound and high electricity prices for the problems facing the industry.

With the closure of the SSI steel plant in Redcar costing 2,200 jobs, on top of those going at Tata, UK Business Secretary Sajid Javid has planned EU talks on the crisis facing the industry.

The Scottish Government, which is hoping to find a buyer to take over production at Tata’s Scottish sites, has demanded to be included in the summit involving British ministers and EU commissioners.

Scotland’s business minister Fergus Ewing called on Mr Javid to ensure the Scottish Government had a seat at the talks in Brussels on Wednesday.

He said: “I welcome the secretary of state’s belated recognition that he urgently needs to do something about it.

“Given the devastating impact that steel dumping has on the Scottish industry, I would like to see the Scottish Government have representation in EU talks to address the problem.

“The UK government can also be taking action now and bring forward help for industries with high energy costs.”

Meanwhile, a Scottish task force, made up politicians, Tata representatives, unions and local councillors, will meet in Hamilton for the first time this Thursday.

Billionaire industrialist Jim McColl, who stepped in when Scottish shipbuilding was in danger, has ruled out taking over the Tata plants in Scotland, saying it is not the type of business “that a smaller entrepreneurial approach is going to fix”.

Mr Ewing said: “The Scottish Government’s priority is find a buyer to continue with commercial production and keep as many jobs as possible. Everyone on the task force knows how challenging that will be, but we will explore every possible option as fast as possible to meet that shared aim.”

A Department for Business, Innovation & Skills spokesman said: “The UK government is in regular contact with the Scottish Government on issues related to the steel industry, including the work of the working groups set up following the Steel Summit and discussions with the EU.”