Sturgeon sets up task force to support Scots steel industry

20 Oct 15

First minister Nicola Sturgeon has offered Scottish Government support for 270 Lanarkshire steelworkers who will lose their jobs in the wake of today’s announcement by the steelmaker Tata that Scotland’s last two significant steel plants are to be mothballed.

Sturgeon has also set up a task force to seek new futures for the Dalzell and Clydebridge plants, where production is ending in the face of a deteriorating market. The force, which will meet for the first time on 29 October, will include Tata, councils, trade unions and local development agencies.

“My government is determined to fight for a future for our steel industry,” Sturgeon said.

“That is why I have established a Scottish Steel Task Force – to be chaired by my business minister, Fergus Ewing – that will bring together all the key representatives to work to keep the Dalzell and Clydebridge plants open.
“We will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to keep the plants open and support the 270 staff affected by today’s announcement.”

Ewing made it clear that government funding would be available if needed to combat the impact of the job losses.

He said:  “The search for an alternative operator is our priority. However, our initiative for responding to redundancy situations, Partnership Action for Continuing Employment, stands ready to work with Tata Steel and with workforce representatives to provide a tailored package of support, if required, to minimise the time any individuals affected by redundancy are out of work.”

But he made clear that initial efforts would be directed at finding the plants a viable future, and that a good deal of preparatory work had been done since Tata first indicated its concerns a year ago.

The immediate cause of the closures is a collapse in competitiveness, attributed to China dumping cheap surplus steel on to the European marketplace as its own domestic demand drops; and to rising UK output costs, notably from fuel tariffs. Union leaders also claim that the Scottish industry, most of which closed in the 1980s and 1990s, has suffered decades of under-investment.

“The task force’s focus will be to explore every option to find a viable future for the two sites,” Ewing said.

“Market conditions are hugely challenging but we will explore all options to keep operations going and secure as many Scottish steel jobs as possible.

“I will be writing to the UK government to urge them to respond quickly to industry demands for action and to play their full part in our efforts to keep these plants open.”

  • Keith Aitken
    Keith Aitken

    covers Scottish affairs for Public Finance from Edinburgh. He was formerly economics editor and chief leader writer on The Scotsman and now has a busy freelance career as a writer, broadcaster and event chair.

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