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Measuring the Diageo fallout

Brian Taylor | 14:37 UK time, Wednesday, 9 September 2009

An intriguing variety of political responses to the news that Diageo is to persist with closing its plants in Kilmarnock and Port Dundas, Glasgow.

This closure has gained exceptional salience in part because of the iconic nature of the brand involved, Johnnie Walker - but also because of the sharp partisan conflict in the town of Kilmarnock.

Responding to the news today, the SNP's John Swinney and others voiced disappointment that an alternative proposal had failed to sway the company.

Labour's Iain Gray said the workforce had been "let down" by SNP Ministers.

For the Tories, Annabel Goldie said the Scottish and UK Governments must stop squabbling, reminding us that there was new investment planned by the company in Fife.

And Tavish Scott of the Liberal Democrats said that a political blame game would not bring one single job back.

As sometimes happens in partisan politics, each point has legitimacy, each point is worthy of consideration. (NB: for the avoidance of doubt, "legitimate" does not mean inherently right, just not intrinsically wrong. Worth, in short, a look.)

It is conceivable, as many argue, that the company was intent on cutting costs, has found no serious option on offer - and has paid minimal attention to history and workforce loyalty.

However, without indulging in a blame game, it is legitimate to ask whether enough was done to dissuade Diageo.

Such questions should be moderately drafted and temperately proffered. Equally, Ministers are adamant they can address such inquiries - and, again, should do so in a controlled fashion. Well, we can but hope.

Understandable partisan concerns must come second to anxiety for the workforce and the need to preserve Scotland's reputation as a place where business motivations are understood. Interrogated, yes. Challenged, yes. But respected.

The Tories are right to point to the jobs on offer in Fife - although, of course, that does nothing to placate those now facing the dole queue at the affected sites.

The LibDems are equally right to note that partisan squabbling - as opposed to dignified scrutiny - will provide nothing. My sympathy to those who are now more worried than ever for their future.


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