Page last updated at 23:08 GMT, Tuesday, 21 July 2009 00:08 UK

Celebrities back whisky workers

Diageo workers wearing Johnnie Walker masks
Workers in Kilmarnock wore Striding Man masks in protest at the closure

The campaign to stop the drinks giant Diageo closing the Johnnie Walker whisky bottling plant in Kilmarnock has received celebrity backing.

Musicians such as Eddi Reader and actor Gregor Fisher, who lives near the plant, are among the well-known faces offering support to the campaign.

Some are expected to take part in a march through the town on Sunday.

The support comes ahead of a meeting between First Minister Alex Salmond and Paul Walsh, chief executive of Diageo.

The march on Sunday is being held in support of the 700 packaging workers who would be put of work by the closure.

Mr Fisher said: "If the closure was forced because the company is losing money I could understand.


I wouldn't normally get involved in any campaign to save a business or site, but this just stinks
Gregor Fisher

"But Diageo are raking it in. The closure is happening to due corporate greed.

"They care not a jot about Kilmarnock or Port Dundas, nor do they care about the generations of workers who have lined their shareholders pockets.

"I wouldn't normally get involved in any campaign to save a business or site, but this just stinks."

There is backing also from film actor Gary Lewis, who appeared in Gangs of New York and Billy Elliot.

The endorsements are being co-ordinated by East Ayrshire Council, which is also organising the weekend march.

It has gained support from The Proclaimers, The Trashcan Sinatras and Kilmarnock band Biffy Clyro.

Modernising operations

Diageo has explained its decision to close the bottling plant and end the link between Johnnie Walker and Kilmarnock going back to 1817, while it also wants to close the Port Dundas distillery and cooperage in Glasgow, with the loss of 200 further jobs.

It wants to invest £100m in a packaging plant in Fife, along with a new cooperage near Alloa, which would involve creating 400 new jobs.

Its managers say that should make annual savings of £20m, and that this is necessary to modernise its operations to ensure Scotch whisky can compete in the global drinks market.

A joint campaign against the closure has been launched by various bodies including the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise, Glasgow and East Ayrshire Councils, trade unions and local MPs and MSPs.

They are putting together an alternative business plan which will be presented to Diageo next month.



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