Colin Smyth MSP
South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has raised the staffing review recently announced by Alpha Solway with Nicola Sturgeon.
Speaking at First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, the local MSP demanded answers about the situation.
The company, which is part of the Globus Group and has factories in Annan and Dumfries, has said the review comes after a drop in demand for PPE following the Covid pandemic.
The company landed a major contract in 2020 to supply PPE to NHS Scotland and benefited from £4.8 m of investment from Scottish Government agency, the South of Scotland Enterprise Agency.
However, the company announced that contracts from the NHS in recent months had stopped and it was reviewing staffing levels at its two sites in Dumfries.
Alpha Solway has stressed that while a consultation has started, no final decisions on the impact on staffing levels have yet been made.
Speaking in the chamber, Colin Smyth said: “Just last year, Scottish Government funding of £4.8 million was awarded to Dumfriesshire-based company Alpha Solway to build a manufacturing plant in Dumfries for personal protective equipment, with a promise from ministers of 300 jobs.
“That firm now employs less than half that number of people and it has just begun a consultation on further job losses because, in the firm’s words, ‘NHS orders have been stopped’.
“Of course, the overall amount of PPE that we need may well have reduced, but, surely, one of the lessons from the pandemic is that we should never again rely on importing PPE; it should be manufactured in Scotland. I presume that that was the Government’s view when it awarded funding to the company.
“Will the First Minister urgently investigate the Government’s approach to the purchase of PPE and the stopping of NHS orders so that we can avoid any further job losses at Alpha Solway and ensure that we have the vital future PPE resilience that we need?”
Speaking after the session, Colin Smyth added: “One of the biggest lessons from the pandemic is the need to never again find ourselves in a position as a country where we have to rely on importing PPE, given the huge challenges we had over securing supplies. It is vital that PPE is manufactured here in the UK where we can better secure supplies if, and when, it is needed. It is also madness from an environmental point of view to rely on importing PPE from the other side of world when we could be making that product here in Scotland.”