Page last updated at 16:00 GMT, Sunday, 26 July 2009 17:00 UK

Thousands attend Diageo protest

Protesters are trying to reverse the closure decision

Thousands of people took to the streets of Kilmarnock to protest about the closure of Diageo's Johnnie Walker bottling plant in the town.

The march and rally at Kay Park was organised by East Ayrshire Council, part of the alliance seeking to reverse the closure decision.

First Minister Alex Salmond said the march marked "another step forward" in the campaign to keep the plant open.

He was at the event, which was also attended by Labour MP Des Browne.

'Economic advantages'

Mr Salmond said: "Today's march and rally demonstrated that the people of Scotland stand behind Kilmarnock and the campaign to keep Diageo in the town.

"This rally marks another step forward in the joint campaign to persuade Diageo of the substantial economic advantages in retaining their long established and hugely beneficial links with the communities of Scotland.

"Next month, the campaign will present an alternative business case to retain this iconic whisky brand in Ayrshire and to demand fairness for their workers across Scotland and Port Dundas in Glasgow."

Protest march
Thousands of people joined the march and rally

Scottish Conservatives leader Annabel Goldie, who was also at the march, said: "This march has sent a powerful and passionate message to Diageo.

"Across communities, across political parties and across organisations that message is: Do not tarnish the legendary reputation of scotch whisky and do not abandon the legacy of generations of skilled and loyal employees who have made Diageo the hugely successful company it is today.

"Corporate success should never exclude corporate responsibility."

Although Kilmarnock has been linked with Johnnie Walker since 1820, the drinks giant wants bottling to move out of the town, with the loss of 700 jobs.

The company is also closing its Port Dundas distillery and cooperage in Glasgow, moving production to Fife and a new cooperage near Alloa.

Musical performances

Diageo has said the redundancies would be offset by the creation of 400 jobs at its packaging plant in Fife.

East Ayrshire Council leader Douglas Reid, Lib Dem MSP Ross Finnie and Kilmarnock football club chairman Michael Johnston were also planning to join the plant workers on the march.

The rally, compered by comedian and TV personality Hardeep Singh Kohli, was also due to hear a poetry recital, with musical performances by Hue and Cry and local band, Symptoms.

The campaign has attracted celebrity support, including singer Eddi Reader, The Proclaimers and Kilmarnock-based actor Gregor Fisher.

Scottish Enterprise, the government's enterprise agency, is co-ordinating an effort to draw up a plan for an alternative to closure.

The company has said it will co-operate with that effort and listen to its conclusions.

Diageo has said the company reckons its closure plans should save £20m each year, from an investment of £100m.



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