Page last updated at 21:46 GMT, Tuesday, 14 July 2009 22:46 UK

'Listen to people' call to Diageo

Diageo distillery, Port Dundas, Glasgow
Diageo plans to close its Port Dundas distillery with the loss of up to 200 jobs

Whisky company Diageo must "listen to the people" and ditch plans to axe 900 jobs, Finance Secretary John Swinney has said.

He was speaking after hosting a summit of council, union and government leaders, as well as MPs and MSPs, in St Andrews.

Diageo plans to cut 900 jobs by closing the Johnnie Walker bottling plant in Kilmarnock and the Glasgow distillery.

Campaigners are drawing up an alternative business plan.

Mr Swinney said: "All of these different interests are absolutely united in working to persuade Diageo to change its proposals.

"We've got the people of Scotland behind us in this campaign - that is a voice that Diageo must listen to."

They're writing off our town and we're determined they'll not get away with it
Douglas Reid
East Ayrshire Council

Representatives from Scottish Enterprise, Glasgow City Council, East Ayrshire Council, trade unions, as well as Kilmarnock and Loudoun MSP Willie Coffey, and Labour economy spokesman David Whitton were at the meeting.

Kilmarnock and Loudoun Labour MP Des Browne, who also attended, said afterwards: "We are winning the argument out there.

"Public opinion in Kilmarnock is four-square behind the workers of Johnnie Walker, as it is in East Ayrshire and Ayrshire.

He said he was also receiving support from people abroad.

Douglas Reid, the leader on East Ayrshire Council, said: "We're keeping the campaign going and we're absolutely united and determined that the story's not finished.

"Every tier of government and every political party is united on this.

"They're writing off our town and we're determined they'll not get away with it."

'Key step'

Derek Ormston, of the Unite union, said as well as Kilmarnock and the 200 jobs in Glasgow, the plans had a wider impact on Scotland.

Glasgow SNP MSP Bob Doris chaired another meeting with economic development agency Scottish Enterprise on the future of the Port Dundas site.

He said: "This meeting gave those representing Port Dundas the chance to hear from Scottish Enterprise what steps they will be taking over the coming weeks and to begin discussions on an alternative proposal.

"Trade unions, politicians and the local authorities in both Glasgow and East Ayrshire are united in fighting Diageo's job cuts across Scotland and I was pleased to see union representatives from Kilmarnock join their Glasgow colleagues this morning.

"This morning was a key step in bringing together the fight to secure jobs at Port Dundas and identifying key issues in this campaign."

MPs are due to debate the closure plans in Westminster on Wednesday.

Protest march

East Ayrshire Council has also organised a protest in Kilmarnock for Sunday, July 26.

The "Keep Striding Forward" march will start from Howard Park at 1300 BST.

The first minister will be signing a petition to save Diageo jobs in Kilmarnock on Wednesday.

He will be joining the leader of East Ayrshire Council, Douglas Reid, staff at the plant, and trade union representatives.

Campaigners have said the restructuring moves announced by the drinks manufacturer could be the '' thin end of the wedge '', and eventually whisky could end up being bottled outside Scotland.

Mr Salmond is due to meet the chief executive of Diageo next week.

The drinks giant has said it can save £20m a year by ending its operations at the two sites, and transferring work to plants at Leven and Cameron Bridge in Fife and Shieldhall in Glasgow.

About 700 jobs would be lost with the closure of the East Ayrshire bottling plant and up to 200 with the closure of the Glasgow facility.

Diageo has stressed that the job losses would be partially offset by the creation of up to 400 jobs at its plant at Leven, Fife.

The firm is also creating a coopering centre at Cambus in Clackmannanshire.

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