Their products have played key roles in the everyday lives of millions of Scots since the first one was built more than 400 years ago.

Now there are calls for ministers to step in and save the last of Scotland’s historic paper mills from closure after it collapsed into administration, putting 489 jobs at risk.

The fate of Stoneywood Mill in Aberdeen hangs in the balance after its owner, French company Sequana, filed a notice of administration for a number of its UK firms.

Mark McDonald, MSP for Aberdeen Donside, has written to Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills, urging him to form a taskforce to secure ongoing support as well as to assist in any discussions with potential investors or prospective bidders.

Administrator Iain Fraser said: “There are no immediate plans for any redundancies. Our priority at the moment is trying to secure a buyer and we are attempting to engage with any potential purchasers. We are trying to ensure we have critical supplies in place to maintain services. That is a key issue for us right now.”

If it closes, it would leave just the huge Caledonian Mill in Irvine, which was an inward investment project which opened in 1988, as the last remaining paper mill in the country, marking a sad demise for an industry which as recently as 1959 employed 17,000 across the country.

The industry is thought to have begun in Dalry, Edinburgh in 1590 with a large market for paper in government, publishing, commerce, the university and the law courts and soon there were dozens of mills along the Water of Leith.

By the 1830s, there were more than 70 paper mills in Scotland which was one-fifth of all the plants in Britain at the time. But the demise of Stoneywood follows a pattern of closures across the country as producers in countries such as China, India and Brazil undercut mills in the UK. 

The Corpach Paper Mill, near Fort William was closed by Arjowiggins in 2005, with 135 jobs going. The same year, Inveresk closed its last Scottish paper mill, in Denny, having just shut its Inverkeithing plant.

In Aberdeen, the Davidson Mill closed in 2005, with the loss of 276 jobs and four years before that, 250 jobs went with the Donside Paper Mill.
Penicuik in Midlothian, which had claimed the historic title of ‘the Papermaking Town’, saw the last mill on the River Esk close in 2004.

Other plants in Denny, Inverkeithing and Markinch all closed around the same time with the loss of hundreds of jobs.

Now hundreds more workers face an uncertain future at the Stoneywood Mill, which started production more than 300 years ago.

The Aberdeen mill has been in operation since 1710 and has a turnover of £120 million but now 489 staff face the threat of redundancy, along with 29 based in Basingstoke, Hampshire.

Mr Fraser added: “The Stoneywood Mill in Aberdeen has a long tradition and reputation for producing fine and creative papers of the very highest quality for a global customer base.

“Unfortunately, the business has been severely affected by rising costs and difficult trading conditions, and the insolvency proceedings begun in France left the directors no option but to place the UK companies in administration.

A Sequana statement said: “These companies operate the mills of Stoneywood, Chartham and Clacton. Under the aegis of administrators, these procedures will help support the measures undertaken to find buyers for Arjowiggins’ businesses.”