John Wilson, Employment spokesperson for the Scottish Greens and MSP for Central Scotland, has called for the Scottish Government to convene talks between MSPs, North Lanarkshire Council and other interested agencies in an effort to come up with a solution to the region's jobs crisis.
Wilson raised the issue at General Questions in the parliament this morning following recent announcements by Tata Steel, HMRC and North Lanarkshire Council which could affect thousands of jobs in the area.
Tata Steel announced plans to mothball its Lanarkshire plants last autumn, with HMRC announcing that it will close its Cumbernauld office, the town’s biggest employer, in November. North Lanarkshire council have also indicated in recent press articles that they are likely to shed around 1000 jobs due to the local government settlement, and have recently been consulting on these cuts.
In response to Wilson’s questioning in parliament Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil highlighted the work of a taskforce, headed by Business Minister Fergus Ewing, to attempt to find a buyer for the Tata plants.
Neil went on to say “in terms of the wider issues we will always be happy to work with all stakeholders in North Lanarkshire and in every other part of Scotland where there are threats to jobs and the possibility of redundancies…”
Wilson welcomed the commitment by the Cabinet secretary but said more had to be done:
“Recent announcements by Tata Steel, HMRC and North Lanarkshire Council paint a bleak picture for future employment prospects in the area. I welcome the Cabinet Secretary's commitment to work with all stakeholders in North Lanarkshire and I would urge him to arrange a meeting with elected representatives, the local authority, trade unions and other pertinent agencies as soon as possible.”
“It is important that we explore every avenue open to us in an attempt to retain these jobs in the area. In terms of Tata I welcome that fact that the government have convened a working party and hope that it can achieve a positive outcome and ensure the plants remain open.”
“I was pleased to meet with representatives of the PCS union recently and I conveyed my willingness to work with them in the fight to keep Central Scotland’s tax offices open. The tax office in Cumbernauld is the town’s biggest employer and if it were it to close it would have a devastating effect on the local community.”
“With regard to the issues at North Lanarkshire Council it is clear that both the council and the Scottish Government must work together to achieve an amicable solution which will protect jobs and services. Recently in the press we have seen both the council and the government blame one another for the budget issues. However pointing the finger doesn’t help deal with the problems facing us. We must ensure retaining jobs and services is our priority.”