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Keep Johnnie Walker in Kilmarnock

15/07/2009

First Minister Alex Salmond met with staff of the Johnnie Walker plant, union representatives, local businesses and politicians in Kilmarnock today as part of the ongoing campaign to save Diageo jobs in Scotland.

Last month Diageo announced plans to close its Kilmarnock facility along with net job losses of up to 500 across the country.

The First Minister visited the town to hear the views of those directly affected by Diageo's proposals and to sign the 'Keep Johnnie Walker in Kilmarnock' petition.

The Scottish Government is working hard to save Diageo jobs, last night the Finance Secretary John Swinney met with with representatives from Scottish Enterprise, Glasgow City Council, Unite union, GMB union, East Ayrshire Council, MPs and MSPs to construct the most cohesive arguments and package of initiatives possible to present to Diageo.

First Minister Alex Salmond said:

"Following Diageo's announcement earlier this month, the Scottish Government has been working hard to safeguard jobs and to ensure Scotland gets the best possible outcome for the company and its staff.

"Diageo has committed to a genuine consultation on their proposals and we are working to ensure that the company fully understands the consequences of their decision and also the benefits of retaining their strong and long established relationship with Ayrshire.

"This Government is focused on saving jobs and presenting Diageo with a strong, cohesive argument that challenges their proposals. Diageo has made billions of pounds from Scotland and their plans are not acceptable to the Scottish people.

"I would encourage everyone to support the Diageo workforce at this worrying time and add their name to the petition to Keep Johnnie Walker in Kilmarnock."

Finance Secretary John Swinney will meet senior Diageo executives tomorrow on a fact-finding mission at the company's Port Dundas facility.

His visit comes as an alliance opposed to the company's redundancy proposals - which could see 900 staff at Kilmarnock and Port Dundas lose their jobs - progress an alternative business case.

It follows Tuesday night's talks in Edinburgh, involving the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise, Glasgow City Council, trade unions, East Ayrshire Council, cross-party MPs and MSPs, which focused on ways of developing cohesive arguments against Diageo's cuts.

Mr Swinney said:

"Diageo have committed to holding a proper consultation and must now listen to the voice of the people of Scotland, who are resolutely opposed to these potentially devastating proposals.

"The company has committed to providing the financial information we need to develop our alternative business case. Earlier this week I held very constructive talks involving those opposed to these redundancies. We are making good progress and have appointed independent consultants to take this work forward.

"My visit to Port Dundas is an opportunity to emphasise the strength of feeling behind our united campaign to persuade Diageo to ditch their plans. It will also be crucial as a fact-finding mission to help our cross-party alliance construct viable alternatives.

"We have a clear priority - preventing job losses and preserving for the long term the strength of our Scotch whisky industry, an iconic brand and real strength of our economy. That means maintaining the industry's long and deeply embedded links with communities like Port Dundas - a point we will continue to make as the campaign to reverse Diageo's decision moves forward."