First Minister Alex Salmond has agreed to meet a Highland MSP who is fighting to safeguard the jobs of 21 people facing redundancy.
The SNP leader said he appreciated the “huge” impact the closure of a public health inquiry call centre in Brora would have on the local economy.
Operator Serco – the giant service company firm that runs NorthLink ferries – has opted to centralise its operations by relocating to Glasgow.
Labour MSP David Stewart said the loss of 21 jobs in a community with a 1,200 population was the equivalent of 1,500 jobs going in Inverness, 6,000 in Glasgow and around 5,000 in Edinburgh.
Speaking at first minister’s questions at Holyrood yesterday, Mr Stewart said: “This is a devastating blow to a small rural community.
“Will the first minister agree to meet me and send a beacon of hope to all the affected families in the north?
Mr Salmond, MSP for Aberdeenshire East, said Finance Secretary John Swinney and his civil servants were already involved in the issue but he would “meet David Stewart and his constituents”.
“I agree with him that while 21 jobs can sound like a relatively small number, in a small community, proportionately, it is a huge number,” said the first minister.
“I think these matters have to be of real concern for companies when making such announcements.
“Therefore we want to be sure that the views of David’s constituents are fully taken into account as we discuss with Serco how we can move forward on this issue.”
Mr Stewart said later that he was pleased the first minister had agreed to a meeting because jobs in rural parts of the Highlands must be “protected”.
“With population decline and young people moving away to find work, coupled with an increasingly ageing population it becomes more important by the day that areas like Brora and East Sutherland have job opportunities to secure a long term future,” he added.
Councillor Deirdre Mackay, area leader for Caithness and Sutherland, said she hoped the government would be able to provide workers with “hope” that a long term solution could be found.