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Friday, 30 November 2007, 15:59 GMT
Seafood firm closure sparks row

Young's Seafood decided not to re-build its fire-damaged Annan factory at least five months before it told staff the news, it has been claimed.

Dumfries Labour MSP Elaine Murray said Youngs decided to withdraw from Annan seven weeks after a fire in March, but waited until October to inform staff.

A parliamentary answer states Young's withdrew a grant application in May, stating the fire as the reason.

Young's said the application was removed for different reasons.

Scampi shelling

Work was transferred to Grimsby on a temporary basis after the fire in March.

It was not until October that Young's said it did not make "economic sense" to return the work to Annan.

It said 89 jobs would be lost as a result of the decision.

The company had already announced 120 job cuts when it transferred scampi shelling operations to Thailand.

The latest round of redundancies will leave less than 50 workers at the Dumfries and Galloway facility.

Dr Murray said she had received an answer from Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead which stated that Young's withdrew its grant application in May because of the fire.

The reason cited for this appears from Mr Lochhead's reply to have been the fire
Elaine Murray MSP

She said: "Young's publicly maintained that their commitment to Annan remained.

"The company had applied for a £426,000 from the Scottish Executive's Fish Processing and Marketing Scheme for the development of deshelling equipment for its site in Annan.

"However, on 2 May, a mere seven weeks later, Young's Seafood confirmed to the Scottish Executive that the project would not be completed and would not be submitted.

"The reason cited for this appears from Mr Lochhead's reply to have been the fire."

She said it then took another five months for employees to be told that the company had changed its mind.

In a written statement a company spokesman said the grant application was withdrawn because it was for peeling equipment which was no longer required, after the earlier decision to move production to Thailand last November.

The statement added that immediately after the fire it had been completely confident of putting the Annan operation "back on the same footing as before".