Page last updated at 13:35 GMT, Wednesday, 13 May 2009 14:35 UK

Dairy firm proposes plant closure

Milk Link logo
Milk Link wants to move production from Kirkcudbright to Devon

A major dairy firm has announced plans to close a site in south west Scotland with the loss of 121 jobs.

Milk Link confirmed its proposal for the Kirkcudbright site as part of "strategic refocusing" of its business.

If the action goes ahead it would see production from the Dumfries and Galloway dairy moved to the company's Crediton facility in Devon.

Milk Link has now entered consultation over the two-phase plans which would see the plant shut by January 2010.

The announcement follows an extensive review of Milk Link's operations.

It is important to stress that the proposed closure is not a reflection on the hard work and commitment shown by our employees at Kirkcudbright
Neil Kennedy
Milk Link chief executive

If confirmed it would take place in two stages with 60 posts to go by November this year.

The remainder would be lost by early 2010.

The company said it was keen to mitigate the impact of the decision and there could be opportunities for about 27 staff to move to its Lockerbie and Devon sites or elsewhere in the business.

Chief Executive Neil Kennedy said that as a farmer-owned co-operative Milk Link's main aim had to be to deliver "sustainable returns" for its members.

"Kirkcudbright currently processes 35 million litres of milk and cream a year, which represents a 25% utilisation of its overall capacity," he said.

"Over the last three years, Milk Link has attempted to build a sufficient volume of profitable new business to make the site sustainable."

'Strategic review'

Mr Kennedy said that while some progress had been made it was decided that it was no longer viable to operate two sites.

As a result, production from Kirkcudbright would be transferred to Devon.

"It is important to stress that the proposed closure is not a reflection on the hard work and commitment shown by our employees at Kirkcudbright," added Mr Kennedy.

"We are, of course, very conscious of the impact this will have upon them."

South of Scotland SNP MSP Alasdair Morgan said he was disappointed by the move.

Kirkcudbright Creamery
The creamery is a massive local employer and its closure would be a tragedy for its hard-working employees and their families, which will hurt the local economy
Russell Brown MP

"This is bad news for Kirkcudbright and my thoughts are with the employees affected and with their families," he said.

"I hope to raise the issue of the closure with the first minister and ask him what assistance the government can offer to those affected.

"The loss of 120 jobs in the Stewartry is as bad as 1,000 in the central belt and I hope that the seriousness of this announcement will be recognised and assistance forthcoming."

Dumfries and Galloway Labour MP Russell Brown said the proposals would have a huge impact on a small town.

"If this proposal goes ahead it will be an absolutely devastating blow to Kirkcudbright, similar to the impact on Dalbeattie when Stelrad closed," he said.

"The creamery is a massive local employer and its closure would be a tragedy for its hard-working employees and their families, which will hurt the local economy.

"I'm determined that everything possible must be done to try and rescue jobs at the creamery, and that means Milk Link must be serious about working with the unions during the consultation period."

Alex Fergusson, MSP for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale, described the news as a "hammer blow" for the "finest dairy-producing area in Scotland".

He said it was only by achieving added value on products that the area could hope to have a sustainable economy.

"For many years the Kirkcudbright Creamery has carried out that function by taking the milk that we are so good at producing and manufacturing it into other dairy products," he said.

"The fact that that capacity is to be lost within the Stewartry is very hard to come to terms with".



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