Diageo rejects plan to save Scotland whiskey jobs

Hopes of saving hundreds of whisky jobs in Scotland were dashed today after drinks giant Diageo rejected a Scottish government-backed proposal to counter their factory closure plans.

The maker of Guinness stout had announced it wanted to close its Johnnie Walker bottling plant in Kilmarnock and the Port Dundas grain distillery in Glasgow - affecting 900 workers across the two sites.

David Gosnell, managing director of Diageo Global Supply, today said that alternative proposals put forward by a Scottish government-backed taskforce had not provided a "workable alternative to deliver what Diageo needs".

A massive cross-party campaign was mounted to try to persuade Diageo to rethink its proposals, with 20,000 people marching through Kilmarnock in a protest rally.

Less than a week ago, British Finance Secretary John Swinney presented bosses at the firm with details of alternative proposals, which would have seen production continue at Port Dundas and the creation of a new plant in Kilmarnock.

Those proposals had been drawn up by a taskforce consisting of politicians, trade unions, local councils and Scottish Enterprise.

Mr Gosnell had described last Thursday's meeting as "positive".

But today he said: "We examined the alternative proposals thoroughly. They don't deliver a business model that would be good for either Diageo or Scotland.

"We need a sustainable Scottish operation that supports our international spirits business and provides a future for the 4,000 people we would employ in Scotland after this restructuring is completed.

"I appreciate their efforts but the taskforce has no workable alternative to deliver what Diageo needs."

The company said there were three key reasons why it had rejected the taskforce's proposals.

The company said the plans would still leave inefficiencies, and added that the alternative model presented no other option than delaying the closure of the Port Dundas site.

It also claimed there would still be a net loss of around 500 jobs, through a reduction in the Kilmarnock workforce and the closure of the Port Dundas distillery.

Diageo also said that the alternative proposals would mean there would be no investment in Leven and only a small number of new jobs created there.

The drinks giant has already said the redundancies at Kilmarnock and Glasgow will be "offset" by the creation of 400 jobs at its packaging plant in Fife.

Diageo said the taskforce proposal "does not address the basic economics of our business, current developments in the marketplace or funding for the suggestions it does advance".

The Scottish government had said previously that public money could be made available to the firm.

But Mr Gosnell said: "Diageo has never sought public funding for our proposals.

"We would prefer public money to be directed to the economies of Kilmarnock and Glasgow while we focus our own investment on sites critical to the future sustainability of our operations in Scotland. Regrettably, we must reject these proposals."

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