Arjowiggins Paper Mill

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 29 September 2022.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Douglas Lumsden Douglas Lumsden Conservative

5. To ask the First Minister what support the Scottish Government will make available to the reported 372 members of staff affected by the Arjowiggins paper mill at Stoneywood in Aberdeen entering administration. (S6F-01395)

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

This is an exceptionally difficult time for people being made redundant at Arjowiggins in Aberdeen, and those affected are our immediate priority. Of course, they are already receiving support through our partnership action for continuing employment—PACE—initiative, and a partner event is taking place in Aberdeen today, with a jobs fair arranged for 10 October.

Scottish Enterprise has been working extensively with Arjowiggins. Unfortunately, conditions deteriorated and, despite everyone’s best efforts, it was not possible to secure a sale of the business. Scottish Enterprise is working with administrators to understand possibilities for the business going forward.

The Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise is providing regular updates to local elected representatives, has spoken with Unite the union today and will speak to the administrator this afternoon.

Photo of Douglas Lumsden Douglas Lumsden Conservative

It is now a week since the firm went into administration

, and this is the first time that I have heard the First Minister mention it. When BiFab went into administration, the First Minister flew back from Germany. When Ferguson’s went into administration, the Scottish Government nationalised the yard. When the Michelin factory in Dundee closed, Scottish Enterprise turned it into an innovation park. However, when it comes to jobs in Aberdeen, the First Minister is nowhere to be seen and we are met with a wall of silence. When will the First Minister come up to Aberdeen to speak to the workers whose livelihoods are in jeopardy? What steps is the Scottish Government taking to ensure that the mill can be saved or that all of the people affected can find alternative employment? The loss of more than 300 jobs needs more than the usual PACE response.

The First Minister:

Of course, the actions that the member sets out in relation to other companies are regularly criticised—as we have heard just today—by the Scottish Conservatives.

On this serious issue, which I understand his concern about, the member is doing a disservice to everybody affected. Since 2019, when it first became clear that the company was facing administration, the Scottish Government has been working, principally through Scottish Enterprise, to try to find an alternative future and to find a buyer for the company. Despite all of those best efforts, that has not proved possible, which is deeply regrettable. However, as I set out in some detail in my original answer, the Scottish Government and Scottish Enterprise will continue to provide support to the workers and will continue to do all that we can to understand what possibilities there might be for the business.

The business minister is always willing to speak to local elected representatives in such situations. That is as true in this situation as it is in any other situation.

I am sure that Douglas Lumsden’s concern for the workers involved is absolutely genuine, but I encourage him to engage with the minister and the Government so that, notwithstanding our many differences, we can perhaps work together in their interests.

Photo of Jackie Dunbar Jackie Dunbar Scottish National Party

I put on record my thanks to the business

minister for the call that I had with him yesterday regarding the impact on my constituents of the closure of the Stoneywood mill. I would be grateful if the First Minister could provide a commitment that the Scottish Government and partners will continue to support all constituents who are impacted by the closure, and if she would join me in condemning outright the employment practices of the mill’s owners, who have not consulted the unions or employees and have provided no notice to workers of redundancies while locking them out of the workplace. Will the First Minister urge the administrators to engage with me, as the constituency MSP, to discuss staff redundancies? I have had no response so far.

The First Minister:

I absolutely agree with Jackie Dunbar, and I give her the assurances that she has asked for. I commend her for the work that she has done, and continues to do, on behalf of her constituents who are affected by the situation.

The Scottish Government firmly believes that there must be meaningful dialogue between employers and employees to ensure that, at all times, workers are treated fairly. As I have already outlined, we are committed to supporting all those impacted by the closure.

Jackie Dunbar has raised a really important issue about fair work practices. Employment law is, of course, a reserved matter, but it is our firm belief that a progressive approach to industrial relations and an effective voice for workers are at the heart of a fairer society in Scotland.

As I mentioned earlier, the business minister spoke with Unite the union earlier today and reiterated our on-going support through the PACE initiative and Scottish Enterprise. As I also indicated, he is speaking with the administrators this afternoon. He will emphasise the importance of engaging with all relevant stakeholders—including, of course, Jackie Dunbar, as the constituency MSP—and he will continue to update all elected representatives.