Page last updated at 16:35 GMT, Thursday, 20 November 2008

Hundreds of fish jobs threatened

The Seafood Company buys about 100m of fish from Scotland.

The Inverness smoked salmon producer, Strathaird Salmon, has been earmarked for closure with the potential loss of 354 jobs.

The move has been caused by increasing costs and the need for significant investment required for the facilities.

The parent firm, Grimsby-based Seafood Company, said the business was sound and it would continue to buy salmon and invest in its operations.

It has proposed transferring its smoked salmon production to Fraserburgh.

The first priority must be to support the workers affected
MP Danny Alexander

Local Liberal Democrat MPs Danny Alexander and Charles Kennedy have urged bosses to do all they can to help workers find alternative employment if the factory closes next summer.

The MPs have also sought assurances that another factory at Grantown-on-Spey will not be affected.

Seafood Company has entered into a 90-day consultation on the proposed transfer of its production from Inverness to Fraserburgh. If the move goes ahead Strathaird will close in August 2009.

The company said discussions were taking place against a backdrop of increased energy costs, an uncertain economic climate and a resulting need to consolidate its operations.

A full review of Seafood Company's manufacturing facilities has been undertaken.

Strathaird was set up in 1978 by rock musician Ian Anderson to smoke the fish farmed on his Strathaird estate on Skye. Mr Anderson sold to another company in 2000.
The Inverness factory also produces pates and delicatessen products.
The Seafood Company buys about 100m-worth of fish from Scotland and 70% of its staff are employed in Scotland.

Iain Herd, managing director at Strathaird Salmon, said it was regrettable the proposal to shut Strathaird was on the table.

He said: "However, in the current economic climate, with the costs of running our business increasing by over 900,000 year-on-year and a need to make over 7m worth of capital investment over the next five years, we must consolidate our operations to secure the long term growth and profitability of the business and to safeguard the future for our employees in Scotland.

"In the event of closure we will do our utmost, together with the relevant public bodies, to redeploy or retrain those affected."

Mr Alexander said the plans were devastating news for the hundreds of employees and the local economy.

He said: "While this decision is driven by commercial considerations, it is deeply disappointing that a company that has been part of the local economy for so long should have taken this decision.

"The first priority must be to support the workers affected."

David Stewart, a Labour MSP for Highlands and Islands, said: "I have spoken with the management and have said that, with the cross agency support of the parliament, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Highland Council, every effort will be made to see if the organisation can be saved and to assist those who are facing the prospect of losing their jobs."

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