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‘Mistake’ cost jobs at Scots sweets company

A ROW has broken out after claims a mistake by administrators for the firm behind Scotland's oldest sweetie brand led to the loss of more than 100 Scottish jobs.

Confectioners Golden Casket said yesterday it intervened to try to keep the posts north of the Border after the collapse of New McCowans Ltd, which made Highland Toffee and Wham bars.

Last week it emerged production is to switch to Blackpool and York after another firm, Tangarine, bought the brands.

New McCowans had plants at Stenhousemuir, near Falkirk, and Broxburn, West Lothian.

Douglas Rae, the managing director of Greenock-based Golden Casket, makers of Hill’s Hawick Balls, has claimed its bid was not considered due to a clerical error by administrators Glasgow-based Grant Thornton.

Mr Rae, who is also chairman of Morton Football Club, said he wrote to the administators after learning of the demise of the company on September 22.

The administrator disputed this and said last night that the company’s note of interest had not arrived on time.

Mr Rae said his initial interest was followed up with a phone call when he was told it would be passed to a separate office in Reading which it was claimed had been dealing with the sale.

He claimed he was later told the note was not considered because his letter had not been passed to the office.

He said: “We asked [Grant Thornton] why our letter was not forwarded to the Reading office and were advised that it was due to an oversight.

“We stated to them that they may well have cost unnecessary redundancies at the McCowan factory as, if our interest in acquisition had been successful, then redundancies at their factory would have been few, if any at all.

“We are very disappointed at this outcome. Not only have we lost out on the acquisition, McCowan’s staff have lost their jobs and Scotland has lost control of a popular brand of Scottish confectionery.”

A spokesman for Grant Thornton said: “The approach by Golden Casket was made in the latter stages of the administration process when negotiations for the sale of the assets were under way with a number of parties.

“The businesses, which comprised the interdependent operations of Thornycroft and New McCowans and Bristows, were widely marketed before and after the administration and we were actively contacted by 60 parties.

“We believe we achieved the best possible outcome for the creditors of New McCowans.”

Tangerine also makes Barratts Refreshers, Sherbet Dip Dabs, Black Jacks and Fruit Salads.

Initially it was hoped New McCowans might have been saved completely. About 80 additional distribution jobs were also expected to be lost from the demise of the company.

Despite an estimated 25 million Wham bars being sold each year, with total sales of more than £7m, New McCowans reportedly had losses of £2.38m for the year ending March 2010.

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