Council seeks UK Government support for ‘fragile’ Kintyre economy

Council leader Aileen Morton

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Argyll and Bute Council’s leader is seeking UK Government support in a bid to help save Kintyre’s ‘fragile’ economy.

Writing in a report which was set to go before the full council at its meeting yesterday (Thursday November 28), Councillor Aileen Morton stated that she has sent a letter to Alister Jack, Secretary of State for Scotland, asking him to explore ‘any possibilities for UK Government support’ following the news of potential job losses at two of Kintyre’s biggest employers.

Campbeltown Creamery is set to close in a matter of weeks, resulting in 14 job losses, while turbine manufacturer CS Wind UK could make 73 of its 94 employees redundant.

Councillor Morton has also written to Paul Wheelhouse, Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, Michael Matheson, Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, and other Scottish ministers in relation to the CS Wind situation, asking them to identify ‘any particular means of supporting the company in its endeavours to keep production costs as low as possible’.

She said: ‘Given the seriousness of the situation I have been in regular correspondence with Scottish ministers about this, seeking urgent national intervention on a Team Scotland basis, to support the already fragile Kintyre economy.’

Talking about First Milk’s decision to close Campbeltown Creamery, Councillor Morton said: ‘A key issue was the inability to secure a future customer base for Kintyre cheese at a sustainable price that returns a profit.

‘The effects of the global economy and ongoing pressure to reduce costs have also been significant factors in the production of a bulk cheese product and this is also reflected across the entire UK dairy industry.

‘First Milk has provided reassurances in the short term, at least, that milk being produced by Kintyre’s 29 dairy farms will continue to be bought and transported from Kintyre without an additional haulage charge.

‘However, the longer term sustainability of the Kintyre milk field is now under threat, which is a significant issue for the Kintyre economy, given this milk field directly supports the livelihoods of 145 people in Kintyre.’

She said that in addition to a Partnership Action for Continuing Employment (PACE) initiative which has been led by Skills Development Scotland with support from Business Gateway, council staff will do ‘everything that is possible’ to support affected workers, adding: ‘There is now a compelling need for national intervention at this time given the current and potential impact on the Kintyre economy.’

Cllr Morton said that the situation was ‘further exacerbated’ by the situation at CS Wind, adding: ‘All efforts are being made to assist the company in securing new orders but this is a highly competitive, global market place with, again, constant pressure to lower production costs.

‘It is particularly disappointing to see this happen given recent investment in both the factory and port facilities and most importantly the fact that CS Wind is the only UK-based factory producing towers for onshore and offshore wind farms.’

Argyll First Councillor Donald Kelly said: ‘Having already written to both governments requesting additional support for the Kintyre economy I welcome the leader of the council’s intervention.

‘The Rural Growth Deal which has been secured for Argyll and Bute should now either be enhanced in terms of funding available or the current blueprint revisited to reflect the needs of the local community.

‘It vital that we support all existing businesses in Kintyre but it is equally  important to make every effort to attract new sustainable projects to the area.’

Staff consultations at CS Wind were expected to come to a conclusion today (Friday).