SCOTLAND was yesterday dealt a double economic blow as two major employers announced a total of more than 850 job loses.

Japanese company Mitsubishi Electric is pulling the plug on its Haddington television factory with the loss of more than 500 jobs, while Fullarton's is cutting 350 posts at its computer assembly plant in Gourock.

The announcements were made on the same day that Scottish Office Ministers launched the Government's New Deal scheme to try to get thousands of young people off the dole.

In Haddington, local MP John Home Robertson accused Mitsubishi of betraying the community.

He said the electronics company, which is ceasing production of colour TVs there because of market difficulties, had taken the profits for years and were now turning their back on people who had served them.

''The workers have shown great loyalty to Mitsubishi only to be given this slap in the face in return,'' he said.

At the Mitsubishi plant, there was a mood of shock, with some of the young female employees ''crying in disbelief''.

Mr Home Robertson, who met Scottish Industry Minister Brian Wilson at Haddington last night, said he understood the closure was because of the uncertain state of the Far East economy, a claim later rejected by the company.

''It's an excellent site and the decision is no reflection on the highly-skilled workforce. This is a desperately sad situation,'' said Mr Home Robertson.

However, he was confident the area could bounce back as it did when there was a similar jobs blow in 1979 when Tandberg pulled out and the last Labour Government had succeeded in attracting Mitsubishi.

A task force has been set up, following talks involving the local authority and Lothian and Edinburgh Enterprise Ltd (Leel), to give maximum support to the 520-strong workforce.

One of the employees, production inspector John Lorimer, 40, said he was ''devastated'' by the news. He is married with a small child and another baby due in November, and said the timing could not have been worse.

Mr Lorimer, who has worked at the plant for 18 years, said: ''We've known something was up for a while . . . We knew it was coming but we still feel gutted.''

Mr David Renton, convener of the work's committee, hit out at Mitsubishi's claim that falling orders and saturation of the market had forced them to close. He said that orders which should have to come to Haddington would now go to a plant in Turkey.

Mr Wilson expressed his disappointment at the double blow at Fullartons and Mitsubishi. Mr

Allan McLuckie, managing director at Fullarton's, said he was ''not happy'' that the firm was shedding 350 jobs, but claimed the news had not come as a great surprise to the workforce.

He blamed the redundancies on the current decline in fortunes of the global computer market and insisted he was still optimistic about the long-term future of the company, founded in 1978, which sub-contracts component assembly work from major computer manufacturers.

Yesterday's announcement was part of a rationalisation programme which has already seen it shed 250 jobs from its Scottish headquarters at Kilwinning, Ayrshire, two weeks ago as well as ordering 150 redundancies at its sister plant in North Carolina in the US.

Mr McLuckie said the strong pound and the collapse of the Asian markets had compounded the firm's problems but added: ''The situation has not come as any great surprise.

''I am not happy at losing jobs but this situation is not unique to the European market place. The computer industry has been very soft all round the worked for some time and, being a service industry, Fullarton's is at the mercy of the market place.

''I am still optimistic about the future of the company. The market changes very fast and I believe that towards the the second half of this year, things will start to pick up again.''

Mr Wilson said he regretted the loss of jobs at Haddington and Gourock. In the case of Mitsubishi, he said: ''I understand the company's decision was driven by market forces and in no way reflects on the quality or productivity of the workforce.''

Locate in Scotland and Leel would be working with the company to help those affected find alternative employment and to help market the plant to other prospective investors.

Mr Wilson commented later when the Fullarton's announcement was made: ''It is regrettable that the downward trend in the computer market has resulted in these job losses.''

Scottish Tory economic affairs spokesman Alister Jack called on Scottish office Ministers to take urgent action. He said: ''There is little point in introducing a New Deal programme if they cannot hold on to existing jobs.''

SNP industry and employment spokesperson Alasdair Morgan said: ''Scottish manufacturing is being crucified on the cross of high sterling and Gordon Brown is washing his hands of any responsibility - Pontius Pilate like - and saying nothing can be done.''

For the Scottish Liberal Democrats, industry and employment spokesman Michael Moore said it was ''a disastrous day for the Scottish economy''. He added: ''What is needed is a serious effort by all agencies to promote a long-term strategy for broadening the base of the Scottish economy.''

Old problems Page 6

Leader Comment Page 16