No stay of execution as minister signs off closures at Remploy

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TWO factories that employ disabled workers in Scotland are to be shut down after campaigns by management and workers to save them failed, it was announced yesterday.

Last night, MSPs called on the decision – which will see 43 jobs axed at Remploy in Edinburgh and Aberdeen – to be reversed.

North-East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald accused Conservative ministers at Westminster and Remploy’s national board of creating difficulties for campaigners trying to prepare a bid.

Colin Keir, SNP MSP for Edinburgh Western, said the decision was a “kick in the teeth” for everyone who campaigned to save the factory in Edinburgh.

Kevin Stewart, MSP for Aberdeen Central, said yesterday was a “dark day for Aberdeen”.

It had been hoped that private bids to run the factories would save them from closure. But the company said yesterday that no bid for the Aberdeen factory had been suitable, while no final offers for the Edinburgh factory were received.

Esther McVey, parliamentary under secretary of state for disabled people, revealed her decision in a letter to MSPs yesterday.

Across the UK, 28 out of Remploy’s 54 factories are to shut, with the loss of about 1,700 jobs.

Last night, Scottish MSPs urged Ms McVey to reconsider.

Mr Keir said he would fight the closure plans. “The fight will not stop here and I intend to lobby the UK government, in the hope that they see sense and reverse this decision,” he said.

“This letter to MSPs reveals a lack of respect from Westminster. They shouldn’t write to MSPs – and wouldn’t dare write to MPs – with bad news in such an impersonal manner on such an important issue.”

Mr Stewart said: “I know that management and staff in Aberdeen have done everything to improve productivity and reduce overheads and were in the process of creating a viable, future for their business.

“This is a huge slap in the face for them and their efforts have been ignored by the Remploy board and the UK government.”

Mr Macdonald said it was unfair that those trying to put a bid together had not been given any criteria or guidelines.

The UK government has said it wanted to change how it spent a £320 million budget for disabled employment by helping workers find mainstream jobs.

No decision has been made about Remploy’s Springburn premises. Sites in Clydebank, Cowdenbeath, Dundee, Stirling and Leven face closure in March next year if they are not sold to a private buyer.

A spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions said: “We have followed the advice of disability expert Liz Sayce to use the £320m protected budget for disability employment more effectively – to support more disabled people into mainstream jobs instead of loss-making, segregated factories.

“We have put in place an £8m package of employment support for those affected, including a personal case worker to help individuals with their future choices, as well as access to a personal budget.

“Workers can also access the expertise of Remploy Employment Services, which has a good record of placing disabled people into work in Scotland.”