The Scottish business minister is to seek urgent talks with the bosses of a salmon processing firm which announced it was facing sale or closure – risking more than 260 Highland jobs.
North politicians have called on the Scottish Government and Highlands and Islands to step in to protect 263 employees at Dingwall based Edinburgh Salmon Company, (ESCo).
Owners Europeenne de la Mer, a subsidiary of Thai Union Group, made the shock announcement earlier this week, saying they continue to suffer heavy losses as a result of highly challenging market conditions and industry trends.
MSP Jamie Hepburn said: “I was extremely concerned to learn of plans by Thai Union to divest the Edinburgh Salmon Company site in Dingwall.
“This will be a very anxious time for all the staff at the site and also for the local area, where the company is a major employer.”
He added: “I have sought an urgent discussion with the general manager at the Dingwall site and, in addition, Highlands and Islands Enterprise is in contact the company to establish what support it can offer.
“HIE will engage throughout the consultation period to do what it can to help find a buyer for the site and retain the jobs in Dingwall.
“Should there be job losses, our PACE team stands ready to offer its full support to staff. By providing skills development and employability support, PACE aims to help those affected by redundancy get back into work as quickly as possible.”
A company spokeswoman said: “We actively informed the Scottish Government as soon as we had spoken to our staff. We have had a number of conversations already and are grateful for any support in our work to find a potential buyer for the business.”
She added: “The company will actively pursue and explore all viable divestment opportunities in an attempt to avoid, reduce, and/or mitigate the potential impacts upon its valued employees.
“Our employees at ESCo are our primary consideration.
“If we are unable to find a viable alternative to the proposed closure we will then carry out individual consultations with at-risk employees.”
Highland MSP John Finnie said: “I fervently hope that a solution can be found to safeguard the jobs at the site, which is a significant employer for Dingwall.”
James Gibbs, area manager for Highlands and islands Enterprise’s (HIE’s) Inner Moray Firth team, said: “This will be a very worrying time for ESCo employees and their families, and for the many agency staff and supply chain companies associated with the firm.
“We are in very close contact with ESCo to fully understand the position and to explore how we as a development agency might be able to help.
“The company have asked us to help it find a buyer for the business and we are taking steps to bring this to the attention of our industry contacts both in the UK and internationally.
“If there is to be a redundancy situation we will work alongside other agencies through the Partnership for Action on Continuous Employment (PACE) to help those affected to find new opportunities.”