Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Hall's of Broxburn factory to close after bids rejected

Halls plant
Image caption About 1,700 people work at Hall's of Broxburn

The decision to close the Hall's of Broxburn meat factory in West Lothian, with the loss of 1,700 jobs, is "deeply disappointing", John Swinney has said.

The finance minister spoke out as the plant's Dutch owners Vion confirmed it had rejected two offers for the site.

Vion said neither of the bids had been "viable" and some areas of the plant would cease production this month, with the remainder to be closed by February.

Mr Swinney pledged to help the Broxburn area recover economically.

He said: "The Scottish government, its agencies and West Lothian Council will work together to find alternative employment for all those affected by this decision and to develop opportunities to enhance the wider West Lothian economy.

"I have today confirmed to West Lothian Council that the Scottish government will partner in the economic regeneration of Broxburn and officials are developing plans which we will bring to the taskforce at the end of October.

"These plans will help to mitigate the impact of this closure on West Lothian as a whole."

Vion Food Group purchased the Broxburn plant in August 2008 from Grampian Country Food Group, which had been in financial difficulties for several years.

News of the plant's possible closure first came back in July, when Vion announced it was recording "unsustainable losses" in spite of "major restructuring exercises".

Image caption The meat processing plant was handling 8,000 pigs each week

Its UK chairman Peter Barr said the firm - which was handling 8,000 pigs each week - was losing £79,000 per day at the site, due to "significant over-capacity in the UK meat industry".

After the warning, Mr Swinney convened a taskforce to deal with the potential redundancies.

Vion also turned down an offer from the Scottish government to buy and lease back the threatened food factory, saying accepting public money would only delay any potential decision regarding closure.

Last week the company confirmed it had received two offers for the plant, but it has now confirmed that the factory would in fact close.

Mr Barr said it was a "very sad day" for the company. Redundancy talks have already begun with the plant's 1,700 workers.

He added: "Regrettably, having reviewed both offers over the weekend, we have been forced to conclude that neither of these proposals constitutes a viable and sustainable alternative to the proposed closure of the plant.

"In neither instance were we assured that either offer provided a guarantee of ongoing employment for the workforce, in spite of the fact that Vion was prepared to offer substantial financial assistance to support the acquisition.

"Consequently, it is with great regret that we can confirm that it is our intention to proceed with plans for a phased closure of the plant.

"As previously outlined, this will mean that some areas will cease production later this month with full closure expected to take place by February 2013.

"We have already had detailed discussions with our employees and their union representatives to brief them fully on details of the enhanced redundancy terms on offer to them and to outline our plans to support them in the coming months."

Lawrence Wason from the Usdaw trade union told the BBC the plant's closure would devastate the local community.

"We were hopeful that there was going to be some light at the end of the tunnel and certainly parts of the factory could be saved, if not all - but this clearly is not the case now," he said.

"You're talking about 1,700 employees - massive numbers - and the impact will be devastating throughout West Lothian.

"I think the company's ultimately responsible for the state they find themselves in. There's a long-serving workforce there - very skilled - and they've done everything they possibly can, industrial relations have been good on an ongoing basis.

"We will work hand in glove with the other agencies to ensure that people get assistance to try to find other employment."

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