Measures taken to cut costs
Ewing hopeful that threatened steel plants can be saved
Energy minister Fergus Ewing today said there was “serious interest” in the steel plants in Scotland and said a series of measures were in place to enable them to stay open.
Mr Ewing said he did not wish to raise hopes but said a potential buyer may come forward within weeks. He said the task force had looked at ways of making the plants more viable. These include a reduction of its business rates, a reduction in energy costs and a rethink over government and local authority procurement.
The task force has been seeking an alternative operator for Tata Steel’s plants in Scotland since their future was put in doubt in October. The minimum statutory period of 45 days consultation with workers is reached today.
Mr Ewing said: “The Scottish Government and the Scottish Steel Taskforce remain focussed on securing the future of Scottish steel as we reach the 45 day milestone on Friday.
“Scottish Enterprise and TATA Steel have carried out an extensive global search for an alternative operator for Dalzell and Clydebridge and are in discussion with some of the interested parties.
“The Taskforce remains focussed on finding an alternative operator for Dalzell and Clydebridge and keeping jobs where possible. It will meet again next week to review progress.
“In a hugely challenging global steel market, we want to create the best business environment for any new operator taking on the sites.
“The Lanarkshire Assessor will take into account the state of the steel industry for the next business rates revaluation in April 2017, while we are open to options for reducing the rates liability complying with state aids rules.
“We now know that energy costs at the sites could be cut significantly, while there is potential for renewable electricity generation and sale of heat from the plants.
“We also continue to press the UK Government to maintain pressure on the European Commission to accelerate state aid clearance for the Energy Intensive Industries compensation package before Christmas.
“Representatives of the Scottish Government’s Partnership Action for Continuing Employment (PACE) initiative are delivering support onsite today and tomorrow for employees who may want to find another job, taking into account their skills and experience.”
Bimlendra Jha, executive chairman, Tata Steel’s Longs Steel UK, said: “We continue to work closely with affected employees and their trade union representatives to ensure we provide as much help and support as we can. That work will, in this case, continue beyond the statutory 45-day minimum consultation period.
“At the same time Tata Steel is working closely with the Scottish Government and is fully engaged in the Task Force process of finding an alternative solution for the Dalzell and Clydebridge mills.”
Steve McCool, National Officer at steelworkers’ union Community, said: “We will continue to talk to Tata Steel, the Scottish Government and all interested parties in the interests of securing a future for the Dalzell and Clydebridge plants.
“As we have said all along, all parties need to work together to ensure that the skills are retained and the assets are preserved to ensure that production has the chance to continue.”