Remploy (United Kingdom Government Response)

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 22nd March 2012.

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Photo of Chic Brodie Chic Brodie Scottish National Party

No, I will not.

I have had sight of the detailed and extensive consultants’ report on Remploy, I have distilled some of the items in the Sayce review and I have spoken to people who know not a little about the Remploy operation in Scotland, and I think that there is scope for us to do something much more positive. I welcome the action that the Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism announced today.

Members must forgive me for being a bit cynical but, when I read the reports, I noticed that of the nine factories, the five that are to be retained—or at least that are under consideration for retention—are all textile factories. We should wait for the “For Sale” signs to go up.

This week, I met heads of associated manufacturing bodies, who believe, as I do, that there is a place for at least some Remploy factories to continue. It is right to challenge the UK Government now and to say that Remploy in Scotland and its employees need more time. Although I cannot support Labour’s amendment urging the Scottish Government to express an interest in acquiring the factories, because it cannot legally do that, I sympathise. Consideration should be given to the establishment of co-operatives or at least social enterprises, with which we can work to create purposeful business plans and ascertain the viability of individual factories—I am convener of the cross-party group on social enterprise, so I would say that, wouldn’t I?

We must allow time for work with various funding streams, such as the social investment fund, the co-operative development fund and the Co-operative Bank, to see whether we can create employee-owned businesses or participative businesses that are not segregated disability employee communities but fully integrated social and profitable work communities. I welcome the minister’s initiatives.

A distressing feature of the whole exercise, which is clear from members’ conversations with Remploy, is that Remploy has had no sales, marketing or business nous to support it, while bearing the full burden of centralised management costs. It is little wonder that Remploy is in the situation that it is in. The efforts that are set out in the motion are commendable and our successful efforts to help our Remploy employees will at least demonstrate who we are and what we are in this Parliament.