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2300 Scots jobs at risk in food firm

AROUND 2300 Scottish food workers face an uncertain future in the run-up to Christmas after food giant Vion announced plans to put its entire UK operation up for sale.

The move came weeks after the firm announced the closure of its Hall's of Broxburn plant, causing the loss of 1700 posts.

Finance Secretary John Swinney accused the Dutch firm of keeping the Scottish Government in the dark after Vion failed to provide details of its future plans for its 12 other Scottish sites during failed talks about the future of the Hall's plant.

Outwith the Hall's of Broxburn operation, the firm employs around 2300 workers in Scotland, including 50 at the UK branch's head office in Livingston.

It includes another 130 workers at a feedmill based at Strath of Brydock, near Turriff, Aberdeenshire.

Its portfolio also includes a processing plant in Cambuslang, South Lanarkshire, that employs around 400 people and a primary processing plant in Coupar Angus in Perth and Kinross, which has about 1000 staff.

The decision also affects another of its brands, McIntosh Donald, which makes steak burgers in Portlethen, near Aberdeen, and employs around 280 people.

Mr Swinney said: "This is an extremely disappointing announcement. I recognise this will be a particularly worrying time for Vion employees.

"The Scottish Government has been involved in protracted dialogue with Vion over the past few months where we have repeatedly asked for reassurance on the future of other plants in Scotland.

"This information has not been forthcoming.

"Today's announcement is the first the Scottish Government has heard of the sale of the other businesses from the company and we will be engaging with the company to maximise the opportunities for business continuity and provide support, where possible, to employees."

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead added: "This news will be a concern for Scotland's farmers, Vion employees and suppliers, particularly coming hard on the heels of the Hall's of Broxburn closure."

Vion said it wanted to return to its core markets, focusing entirely on food operations in the Netherlands and Germany and its global ingredients business.

The meat processing firm remains confident that it will successfully sell all 38 of its UK sites, which employ 13,000 workers.

Unite union convenor Scot Walker said: "Unite will be approaching management imminently, both local and national, to get urgent clarity on the security of our jobs."

John Gorle, Usdaw national officer for Scotland, said: "There will undoubtedly be questions raised about the future viability of Vion's UK food businesses, but Usdaw is of the view these can be secured with the right management, investment and strategic approach in place."

Last month the firm turned down two bids to save the Hall's factory, stating that neither offer constituted "a viable and sustainable alternative" to closure.

Peter Barr, chairman of Vion UK, said: "The level of interest in the businesses has been strong and we hope to be in a position in the near future to give further details about the progress that has been made."

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