WORKERS at the under-threat Hall’s of Broxburn meat processing factory have been given fresh hope after it emerged two potential buyers had expressed an interest in taking it over.
Owner Vion announced last month it planned to close the West Lothian plant with the loss of all 1700 jobs.
But it is understood Scottish Enterprise has told other members of the task force set up to save it that two companies had shown an interest in acquiring the factory, which makes a wide variety of products including sausages, haggis and black puddings.
It is not clear whether the prospective buyers want to take over the site as a going concern or whether the potential offers would be for the whole operation or only part of it.
Vion said the plant was losing £79,000 a day and blamed the inefficient layout of the site for the woes.
After a meeting of the task force two weeks ago, Finance Secretary John Swinney said Scottish Government agencies Scottish Development International and Scottish Enterprise wanted to encourage “different players who could run this plant successfully”.
Today, the Scottish Government said it could not comment on potential buyers, citing commercial confidentiality, but a source said: “Scottish Enterprise indicated there were a couple of interested parties, but it was at a very early stage.
“They wouldn’t disclose who they were, and we don’t know whether it would be a case of taking it over as a going concern in its entirety or a scaled-down operation. We just have to take it at face value and see how it pans out.”
The next meeting of the task force is next Wednesday.
Efforts are already under way to see how the plant could be made more efficient. A team from the Scottish Manufacturing Advisory Service is currently looking to see how productivity and efficiency levels could be improved.
The source said: “If they can bring anything to the table, that’s going to be welcome whether it’s a matter for Vion or a new employer.”
There was speculation soon after the closure plans were announced that supermarket chain Morrisons could take over the plant after it acquired another Vion plant in England. But today the Bradford-based retailer declined to reveal whether or not it was interested.
A spokesman said: “I’m afraid we don’t comment on speculation around acquisitions or investments.”
Vion also declined to comment, saying it would be inappropriate to do so while the 90-day consultation on possible closure continued.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The Hall’s of Broxburn task force has made encouraging progress, but we are still at a very early stage in the process.
“The Scottish Government and its agencies will continue to do everything in its power to deliver continuity and security for the people employed at the plant.
“The task force will continue to work tirelessly with unions and management to deliver a positive result for the workforce and community. That will include seeking potential buyers, as well as considering all options for the future of the plant.”
Save our bacon
Hall’s dates back to 1932 and employs 1150 permanent and 595 agency staff. It is the major processing facility for Scottish pork and claims it makes the world’s best-selling haggis.
The company announced on July 5 it was beginning a 90-day consultation procedure with the workforce on the closure of the plant. The shock news was likened to a pit closure because of the devastating effect it would have on the community where generations of some families have all worked at the plant.
The task force set up by the Scottish Government has brought together the employers, unions, West Lothian Council, government agencies and others in a bid to save the factory.