FOR a city still basking in the opening of the £80 million V&A Dundee, it came as a devastating bolt from the blue.

Heartbroken workers have spoken of a “nightmare situation” after news broke that the Michelin tyre factory will shut with the loss of almost 850 jobs.

Staff were sent text messages and called into a meeting at 8am yesterday, before being handed letters confirming the grim news.

Some told of their anger and disgust after finding out via social media and the press. The news leaked on Monday.

It came just weeks after the city celebrated the latest chapter in its extraordinary reinvention, with the striking V&A design museum throwing open its doors in September and catapulting Dundee into the national spotlight.

Drew Morris, 55, who has worked at Michelin for more than three decades, said it was the younger workers he was most devastated for.

He said: “There are young guys in there with big mortgages and big financial commitments.

“They have said they will support people – if you want to go and retrain as a gas fitter or something they will pay your fees.

“But the closure has come out of the blue. These are good, well paid jobs in here – they’re not going to be replaced by the service jobs coming up down in the docks and the city.

“How is a man going to work in a hotel and keep a wife and two kids on that kind of money?”

He said Brexit had not been mentioned as a reason behind the closure, but added: “How can it not be to do with that?”

Despite plans to halt production within two years, trade union leaders raised hopes some jobs can be saved.

Meanwhile, Economy Secretary Derek Mackay insisted the Scottish Government was “totally focused on trying to salvage what we can from the situation”.

He said: “I’m establishing an action group that will bring together the best proposition we can possibly put to Michelin to try to ensure that the plant and the workforce have a future here.

“The company does not want to revisit the decision but that’s not going to deter me from putting forward the best possible proposition I can for the workforce.

“We can look at a range of interventions and I call on the UK Government to step up to the plate.”

He said: “This announcement is devastating not just for those who work at the Michelin plant, but for their families and the whole of the city of Dundee.”

Michelin is understood to be the largest industrial employer in Dundee, with 845 members of staff. Its site opened in 1971 is due to cease operations by mid-2020.

Unite described the proposed closure as a “hammer blow”, but regional officer Bob Macgregor said they had to remain optimistic.

He said: “We’ve got quite a long time before the plant closes to get a plan in place, to enact that plan, to try to secure at least some of the jobs for this plant.

“I met this morning with Derek Mackay and that was a positive meeting.

“He’s keen to work with the unions and the company to put a plan to Michelin that he thinks will be attractive to them to keep the plant in Dundee in some shape or form.”

Despite investing £61 million in the Tayside plant over recent years, Michelin said the market for premium smaller tyres – such as those produced at the site – had dropped significantly.

The French firm pointed to an increase in cheap imports from Asia and a shift to larger tyres. It insisted the factory’s performance was not to blame.

The plant will remain closed until 7am on Thursday to allow workers to digest the news. Bosses said a personalised support package will be put in place for every worker.

Some employees only recently moved to the Dundee factory from a plant in Ballymena, Northern Ireland, after it closed in 2015. Staff said colleagues who were on holiday had to find out about the closure through friends and family.

John Alexander, leader of Dundee City Council, described the news as a “body blow” – but insisted the city had proved “time and again that we rally around and stand together when times get tough”.

He said: “We are absolutely committed to putting in the effort with the workforce, the decision-makers at Michelin, the Scottish Government and other partners in Dundee and beyond to achieve a positive outcome.

Additional reporting by Jamie Beatson