South Scotland Labour MSP and Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy Colin Smyth, has written to Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy to request an early meeting to urge the Scottish Government to re-think their response to the closure of Pinneys of Annan.

The request for the meeting follows the recent Scottish Government Cabinet re-shuffle in which Mr Ewing took over responsibility for the Government’s response to the closure of Pinneys from former Business Minister Paul Wheelhouse.

Mr Ewing has also taken on responsibility for overseeing the South of Scotland Economic Partnership (SOSEP) as well as the establishment of the South of Scotland Enterprise Agency, which were previously in the hands of Keith Brown, the now former Cabinet Secretary for the Economy, Jobs and fair Work. That post has now been merged with Finance with both now overseen by Derek Mackay.

In response to the proposed closure of Pinneys in April, an Action Group was established with membership including the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise, Skills Development Scotland, Dumfries and Galloway Council and industry representative Seafood Scotland focused on trying to maintain production at the site.

However, although reports suggest there remains two interested parties in the site, no buyer has been found and Young’s intend to end production at Pinneys at the end of September.

Colin Smyth believes it’s time for a re-think in the Government’s response including widening out the Action Group to a full Jobs Taskforce looking at the wider economic challenges facing the area. He is also urging Fergus Ewing to confirm the release of £250,000 from the South of Scotland Economic Partnership (SOSEP) when he visits a planned Jobs Fair in Annan on 19 July. The funding request came from Dumfries and Galloway Council who want to see a dedicated team in place in Annan to look at ways in which new jobs can be created, either by expanding existing businesses or bringing new ones to the area.

Colin Smyth said, “With redundancies already taking place at Pinneys, it’s clear that even if a buyer can be found for the site, the number of jobs that will be created will be significantly less than those currently employed by Young’s. The Action Group has been focused on finding a new owner for Pinneys and that work needs to continue. But the big challenge remains the fact that there just aren’t sufficient alternative jobs in the local economy for those who face redundancy at Pinneys. The Government needs to focus not just on finding a buyer for Pinneys but also tackling the wider economic weaknesses in the area and looking at ways in which new jobs can be created across the local economy, either by supporting the expansion of existing businesses and bringing new ones to the area. That isn’t the main remit of the current Action Group, so we need to move on from that group. The membership includes for example Seafood Scotland but frankly seafood production will stop at Pinneys in a matter of weeks, so the focus of Government support needs to reflect that”.

“The Scottish Government also need to stop dithering over the release of the £250,000 requested by Dumfries and Galloway Council to ensure a dedicated team is put in place in a base on Annan High Street where they can support the workforce and get to work on projects to boost employment in the area. At present workers are given support by the PACE team who are based at Pinneys but there soon won’t be any workers on site and that’s why a new base in town is needed. I have asked Fergus Ewing to confirm the funding when he visits later this month and the first down payment in what I hope will be far more investment in the area.”

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