Unions urge Sturgeon to step in on Scottish steel plants

NICOLA Sturgeon is being urged to step in to ensure two closure-threatened steel plants remain open to secure the industry’s future in Scotland.

Union leaders are also calling on the Scottish Government to take a “different” industrial strategy as the new Forth crossing is being built mainly with imported steel from China.

Indian giant Tata is tomorrow expected to confirm plans to close its plants in Motherwell and Cambuslang this week with the loss of around 400 jobs. A further 800 jobs are expected to be lost elsewhere in the UK.

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John Park, assistant general secretary of the Community Union, said the Scottish Government should act to ensure the plants remain operational to avoid vital skills being lost.

“If the Scottish steel industry is to have a future, then Nicola Sturgeon must ensure the strategic assets at Dalzell and Clydebridge are maintained,” he said.

“We also need the Scottish Government to examine their public infrastructure plans and work with all sides of industry to develop a proper industrial strategy for the sector.

“We believe these Scottish sites can be successful and we are ready to work with the Scottish Government and potential investors to secure the future of steel in Scotland.

“For steel to have that future we must secure the skills of the men and women who work in the industry. That is why we are calling on the Scottish Government to support short-time working programme should that be necessary over the coming weeks.

“Scottish steelworkers will need more than warm words and we will be pushing for Nicola Sturgeon to provide the sort of practical support they need.”

The new bridge has largely been built from Chinese steel, prompting widespread criticism from opposition MSPs.

Mr Park, an ex-Labour MSP, added: “I think the Scottish Government would look back on that and perhaps approach it a little bit differently.

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“I think all governments, UK and Scottish governments, need to be much more active in their approach and learn from the Germans in particular.”

Ms Sturgeon has said that ministers will set up a task force to deal with the impending fall-out of the anticipated job losses.

Health secretary Shona Robison yesterday reaffirmed the First Minister’s commitment to leave “no stone unturned” in the government’s efforts to save the steel industry.

“We will work with the UK government, with the unions, with the staff – and our thoughts are with the workers concerned – to look at what can be done.

“So a task force will be established and we will look at what all of the options are and we will take that forward.

“We need get round the table and see what can be done.”

Asked whether the government would directly intervene to keep the plant running if Tata walks away, Ms Robison said it is “too early to rule anything in or out at this stage”.

“People haven’t got round the table. We will have to see what the art of the possible is, what the UK government are going to do and what our role can be along with the unions and the workers.”

Steelmaking would be dealt a massive blow in Scotland if cuts in Motherwell and Cambuslang are confirmed when Tata sets out its plans tomorrow, with Scunthorpe in England also expected to be badly hit. Only one plant would remain north of the Border making products for the North Sea industry.