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Diageo workers picket golf tournament

Campaigning Diageo workers fighting to save 900 whisky jobs today targeted a golf tournament sponsored by the company.

More than 20 workers were at the Johnnie Walker Classic at the famous Gleneagles course, where they handed out leaflets and gathering signatures for their petition.

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It comes the day after Diageo - which plans to close its Johnnie Walker bottling plant in Kilmarnock and the Port Dundas distillery in Glasgow - announced a profit of just over £2 billion.

The drinks firms said it had had a “challenging” year to June, with pre-tax profits slightly down on last year.

Shutting down the Johnnie Walker bottling plant would lead to the loss of 700 jobs, with a further 200 jobs threatened by the proposed closure of the Port Dundas distillery.

Ronnie Rankine, a worker at the Kilmarnock plant, was one of those who took part in the demonstration today.

Mr Rankine, a member of the Unite union, said: “The protest has gone very well. We collected more than 2,000 signatures for petition and everybody was backing us all the way and wishing us the best of luck for the campaign.”

Unite members will continue their protest at the golf tournament over the weekend, with dozens more campaigners expected there on Saturday and Sunday.

Jassy Smith, a Diageo worker and Unite shop steward who is helping to co-ordinate the protest, said: “When people around the world think of Scotland, they think of wonderful whisky and great golf courses, of which Gleneagles is the best there is.

“We are here to tell golf lovers that the home of golf, Scotland, and Scottish whisky are being betrayed by Diageo’s plans to cut 900 jobs across the country and ditch its home in Kilmarnock.”

The union member added: “It does not have to be this way because there are other ways forward, so we are appealing to golf lovers and whisky fans everywhere to help us make Diageo see sense.”

Diageo announced the closure plans in July, but stated the loss of jobs in Kilmarnock and Glasgow would be partially offset by the creation of 400 new posts in Fife.

However a cross-party campaign has been fighting the proposals, with alternative plans drawn up by a task force including trade unions, local authorities, politicians and Scottish Enterprise.

These could see production continue at the Port Dundas distillery, as well as the development of a new plant at Kilmarnock.

But Diageo chief executive Paul Walsh yesterday appeared to dismiss the effort to save the plants.

He told BBC Radio Scotland: “I’m aware of the jobs campaign and am aware that people are almost trying to dent the image of the (Johnnie Walker) brand, which will not be good for the remaining employees.

“So I think it’s very, very short-sighted.”

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