By Alistair Grant

HUNDREDS of jobs face being cut at a Rolls-Royce plant in Renfrewshire as the company struggles with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Around 700 jobs are expected to be axed in Inchinnan as part of plans to shed 9,000 staff globally.

The Scottish factory, which creates compressor blades and seals for planes, currently employs about 1,300 people.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the news was”absolutely devastating” and her thoughts are with those affected.

She said the Scottish Government would try to bring together a “team Scotland” approach to safeguard jobs if possible.

It comes amid widespread concerns over the impact of Covid-19 on the economy.

The Restaurant Group, which owns Frankie & Benny’s and Garfunkels, is reportedly considering closing as many as 120 outlets, with up to 3,000 jobs at risk.

A spokeswoman for Rolls-Royce confirmed it has opened a voluntary redundancy programme for all UK civil aerospace employees.

She said: “Offering voluntary severance is an important step as we resize our business to adapt to the enormous impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the aviation industry.

“At our Inchinnan facility we have indicated that the likely number of impacted roles will be around 700 based on our immediate load reduction requirements.

“These roles will be predominantly from our services team, which has seen a dramatic drop in demand since the start of the pandemic and we do not expect that to recover in the medium term.

“As a result we are considering withdrawing our services capability from the site entirely.

“We have briefed the Scottish Government and other local stakeholders on the business impact of Covid-19 on Rolls-Royce and are keeping them up to date as our consultation process progresses.

“This number of proposed job losses is a terrible prospect for our people and the communities that are impacted, and we understand how devastating the news must be for everyone at the Inchinnan facility.”

Rolls-Royce has a long history in Scotland.

Its former Hillington plant on the outskirts of Glasgow began making aircraft engines in 1940 and played a key role in the war effort, helping to power Spitfires and Hurricanes.

Scottish Labour MSP Neil Bibby, who represents the west of Scotland, raised the job losses during First Minister’s Questions.

Ms Sturgeon said: “The news that workers at Rolls Royce in Inchinnan will have got this morning is absolutely devastating, and my thoughts are very much with all of them and their families today.

“The Scottish Government will continue to do everything we possibly can to get a more positive outcome to this, because the jobs are important, the Rolls Royce facility is important and of course advanced manufacturing is very important in terms of the Scottish economy now and in the future.”

She said ministers will work closely with trade unions and seek to advance a cross-party approach.

She added: “On the issue of financial interventions, as has been the case previously we will consider all options.”

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said the redundancies would be a “hammer blow to hundreds of families and would have a devastating impact on the local economy, and to Scotland’s manufacturing base”.

He said: “I have repeatedly appealed to both Rolls-Royce and to the Prime Minister to intervene to help prevent redundancies.

“Both Scottish and UK governments must now work with the trade unions urgently to pressure the company to revisit this decision to prevent and reduce this scale of redundancies.”

Debbie Hutchings, a regional officer for Unite the union, also called for an urgent intervention from the UK and Scottish governments.

She said:”Rolls-Royce have informed workers at Inchinnan that they are now opening a voluntary redundancy scheme.

“Unite has been informed that there will subsequently be a review of the take-up of this scheme, which would then lead to a review of the site and its viability past 2020.

“The reality of the situation is that we could see 700 jobs move out of Inchinnan with vital jobs and skills being lost forever to the Scottish economy.

“The impact on the supply chain would be far reaching and it would have a devastating impact on communities and families.

“Unite repeats our call for Rolls-Royce to step back from dealing a major blow to Scottish manufacturing.

“We are entering a critical phase of the process in saving the Inchinnan site, and it now requires [an] urgent intervention from both the Scottish and UK Governments to save thousands of jobs.”

At Westminster, Gavin Newlands, MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire North, challenged the junior minister for transport Kelly Tolhurst on what the UK Government was doing to help.

She said ministers will do “whatever we can to...protect as many jobs as possible”.