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Last Updated: Friday, 18 January 2008, 00:13 GMT
Defence factory sell off 'folly'
DARA worker
MSPs were told staff at DARA had specialist skills
The finance secretary has warned of the impact that selling a helicopter maintenance firm to a private company could have on Scotland's economy.

John Swinney was speaking during a debate in parliament on the possible privatisation of the Defence Aviation Repair Agency (DARA) in Perth.

He said it would be "folly" to move in a direction which could undermine a Scottish engineering skills base.

A decision on the future of the DARA plant will be made soon at Westminster.

'Great uncertainty'

About 350 staff at the factory in Almondbank carry out helicopter maintenance for the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

However, there are plans to sell the rotary wing and components business to Canadian company Vector Aerospace.

Mr Swinney said: "With their technical and specialised skills the management and workforce at DARA Almondbank have created not just a Scottish or a UK level of excellence, but a world-class centre of excellence.

"The last time I visited the plant, I have to say, I encountered individuals whose knowledge and depth of knowledge on the individual specialisms and skills reassured me of the strength of the engineering skills base that exists within Scotland.

"DARA Almondbank is one of the largest employers in the Perth and Kinross area and the nature of its work is truly unique."

DARA at Almondbank
Fears were raised about the impact on staff morale

The member's debate was called by Perth MSP Roseanna Cunningham, who said: "If Vector ownership doesn't work out - and frankly, given its size that remains a pretty major question for all the employees - then what?

"What happens to the defence work that will still need to be done? What happens to the employees? Who protects them in the future?"

Worries about the plant's future were also raised by John Park, a Mid Scotland and Fife Labour MSP.

He said: "Concerns remain about a possible secondary transfer and there are fears that a transfer between two private sector companies would be very different to a transfer between the MoD and the private sector."

Mid Scotland and Fife Conservative MSP, Elizabeth Smith, said: "It cannot be right to put in jeopardy a vital support operation at a time when our troops are engaged in some of the most demanding military operations since World War II.

"The great uncertainty that that poses for the local work force in Perthshire is likely to undermine their morale as they do their best to provide support for our troops on the front line."

Mr Swinney promised to update the MoD with the views that had been expressed in the parliament.



SEE ALSO
Concern at defence repairs sale
14 Jan 08 |  Tayside and Central
Debate planned over defence site
10 Jan 08 |  Tayside and Central
Defence repair site sale 'insane'
25 Jul 07 |  Tayside and Central
Protest at defence repairs plant
13 Dec 07 |  Tayside and Central
Silent protest by defence workers
10 Dec 07 |  Tayside and Central
MoD considers sale of repair site
23 May 07 |  Tayside and Central

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