Page last updated at 15:29 GMT, Friday, 3 July 2009 16:29 UK

Party alliance fights Diageo cuts

Diageo's Kilmarnock plant
About 700 jobs will be lost when the Kilmarnock plant closes

A cross-party alliance is aiming to draw up an alternative business plan to counter Diageo's proposal to close its packaging plant in Kilmarnock.

Scottish Finance Secretary John Swinney said he hoped the move would avert the need for closure and 700 job losses.

The drinks giant has agreed to share the costings behind the decision.

Diageo said on Wednesday it was closing the town's Johnnie Walker plant and its Port Dundas distillery in Glasgow with the loss of up to 900 jobs.

The drinks giant said the job losses would be offset by the creation of up to 400 new jobs through the expansion of a packaging plant at Leven in Fife.

First Minister Alex Salmond condemned the decision following a meeting with company officials on Thursday.

In the face of such a potential hammer blow to the local economy, it is vital that we all band together to force Diageo to reverse their decision
Willie Coffey MSP
Kilmarnock and Loudoun

Mr Swinney held a follow-up meeting in Kilmarnock on Friday, which was attended by representatives from East Ayrshire Council and Scottish Enterprise.

SNP MSP for Kilmarnock and Loudoun Willie Coffey and local Labour MP Des Browne were also part of the delegation.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Swinney said: "We're trying to create an alternative business proposal to secure the future of the Kilmarnock plant.

"There are many great associations between Kilmarnock and the Scotch whisky industry and with the Johnnie Walker brand.

"We want to do everything in our power to retain those associations.

"There's a lot of work to be done. We've got a very difficult recommendation that's got to be overcome."

Petition launched

Meanwhile, Kilmarnock Football Club is supporting a petition against plans to close the town's Johnnie Walker plant.

The petition was launched on Friday afternoon by local MSP Willie Coffey.

Michael Johnston, chairman of Kilmarnock Football Club, urged the drinks firm to think again.

Kilmarnock FC
Kilmarnock FC is supporting a petition to safeguard the town's Diageo factory

"Diageo's decision to close the Johnnie Walker plant in Kilmarnock must be reversed," he said.

"Kilmarnock Football Club will support the employees whose jobs are under threat, and our local politicians in their campaign to keep Johnnie Walker in Kilmarnock where it was founded in 1820."

Mr Coffey added: "In the face of such a potential hammer blow to the local economy, it is vital that we all band together to force Diageo to reverse their decision.

"Johnnie Walker and Kilmarnock FC are both vital to the life of this town. I am pleased to see Kilmarnock FC take such an active part in opposing this dreadful decision."

The mounting pressure on Diageo to abandon the closure of it's Kilmarnock plant has prompted one Glasgow politician to say that the fate of workers at the Port Dundas distillery should be given equal prominence.

'Protect staff'

Scottish Labour MSP for Glasgow Maryhill, Patricia Ferguson, said: "What is happening in Ayrshire is disastrous, but we cannot allow the fate of Diageo's staff in Glasgow to be forgotten.

"Diageo's review threatens 150 local jobs, including highly skilled coopers.

"We need to know why the SNP failed to even try and influence that review, but we also need them to protect the staff and the families. Closure will devastate the lives of families here.

"Scottish Government support is vital to finding alternatives to the closure of the historic Glasgow sites."

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