HUNDREDS of jobs are set to be axed as a seafood company closes a major Scottish processing plant.

Young’s Seafood has announced plans to close the Pinneys of Scotland plant in Annan with the likely loss of 450 jobs before the end of 2018.

Pinneys, which was founded in 1976 and originally had a Royal Warrant to supply smoked salmon to the Queen, specialises in top-end seafood products, including pates, terrines, cooked lobsters and crabs.

It supplies to retailers across Europe, counting Marks & Spencer as one of its major purchasers, and is the biggest private sector employer in the area.

But Grimsby-based Young's said production at Pinneys of deli and meals is "no longer financially sustainable" so will axe the plant and deal a devastating blow to the south-west of Scotland economy.

Production will switch to Grimsby and will need to recruit an additional 200 new roles there.

It is also the latest blow to the Scottish fish processing sector and will the see the total number of jobs lost in the sector rise to more than 1,500 in the past decade and comes ahead of Brexit when more fish is expected to be landed in Scotland.

Bill Showalter, chief executive officer of Young's Seafood, said: "Today's proposals to close our Young's Pinneys site does not reflect on the committed and skilled teams at Young's Pinneys - they are a credit to our company and if these proposals do go ahead we will work hard to maintain the employment of all colleagues throughout this transition.

"We have a long history of seafood production in Annan and whatever the outcome of the consultation we will continue to be a part of the community, given our other factory site within the town."

Pinneys Smokehouses was established in 1976 to produce smoked salmon for mail-order customers. Another factory was opened two years later to supply retail outlets.

A purpose-built factory opened in Annan in 1985 and produced its first ready-made meal for M&S the following year. Eventually all of Pinneys' production processes were transferred to the site in 1997.

Pinneys supplies seafood - including salmon and smoked salmon - to supermarkets including Marks and Spencer.

A major player in the Scottish seafood sector for more than three decades, the company changed hands several times and the current owner is Young's Seafood

Scottish Secretary David Mundell said: “The news that Pinneys in Annan is to close its doors is a tragedy.

"Pinneys have been an important part of the Dumfries and Galloway community for many years, and their closure will be a great loss in an area with few large employers. My thoughts are with the company’s workers, and their families, at this uncertain time.

"The UK Government stands ready to do all it can to help those affected.”

Local Labour MSP Colin Smyth added: “This is absolutely devastating news for the Pinneys workforce and their families and my thoughts are with them.

"There are whole families employed at Pinneys which has served the town as a major employer for decades and this closure will be an utter tragedy for so many people in our area."

"A closure of this scale in such a small community will send shockwaves right across the whole, already fragile, local economy. It is also a massive blow to the Scottish food and drinks industry to lose such a long standing processor in Scotland.

"The fact that the company plan to recruit 200 new jobs in England while axing hundreds of jobs in Annan shows a real lack of loyalty to a workforce who have served the company for many years".

The company said in a statement: "If these proposals go ahead, employees at Young’s Pinneys will be provided with information regarding these new roles and will be given preference over new recruitment.

"Young’s will now commence a formal consultation with staff and their representatives at its Pinneys site as soon as practicable, following the election of employee representatives to discuss and consider options."