Speaking after the third meeting of a taskforce set up to try to secure the future of the plant, Swinney said on August 22 it was “difficult to conceive that all 1,700 jobs at Hall’s of Broxburn can be saved”.
However, a Scottish government spokesperson said some positive progress had been reported to the meeting. She said: “The taskforce heard from the Scottish Manufacturing Advisory Service [SMAS] and other advisers commissioned by the taskforce to explore opportunities for taking forward [plans to rescue jobs at] the business.
“The challenge now is to take forward work, with the company, to see if it can deliver a sustainable, viable business for the community and economy of Broxburn.”
The Scottish government set up the taskforce in June after Vion UK announced a 90-day consultation on plans to close the Hall’s plant at Broxburn in West Lothian.
The company said the plant, which makes a wide range of products including sausages, haggis and black pudding, was losing £79,000 a day and that the losses were unsustainable.
The taskforce includes representatives of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW), West Lothian Council, Scottish Enterprise, Scottish Development International, Skills Development Scotland, Job Centre Plus, Quality Meat Scotland and the MP and MSP for the area.
Last week hopes were raised after it was reported that two companies had expressed an interest in acquiring the facility.
USDAW divisional officer Lawrence Wason confirmed that he knew there had been two expressions of interest in the plant. But he did not know what stage negotiations had reached.
At the time a spokeswoman for the Scottish Government would not comment on the reports, but she said: “The Hall’s of Broxburn taskforce has made encouraging progress to date, but we are still at a very early stage in the process and this is no time for complacency.
“The Scottish government and its agencies will continue to do everything in their power to deliver continuity and security for the people employed at the plant. This is a particularly worrying time for all those who work for Hall’s of Broxburn and their families.”
She said the taskforce was dedicated to working with the unions and management to ensure “a positive result for the workforce and the community”. That will include “seeking potential buyers, as well as considering all options for the future of the plant”.