Richard Leonard has urged the First Minister to nationalise the closure-threatened Caledonian railway works “to save a national asset”.
The maintenance depot in Glasgow is facing closure, with a for sale sign “nailed to the perimeter fence” on Tuesday and staff due to get compulsory redundancy notices on Thursday, the Labour leader said.
With Transport Secretary Michael Matheson due to meet a group of worker representatives, Mr Leonard called for Nicola Sturgeon to intervene and purchase the depot.
Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, Mr Leonard said: “These works have existed in Springburn for 160 years, but once it goes, it goes forever.
“The site’s turnover is up, the workers’ skills are indispensable, this is a cornerstone of Scotland’s engineering base, this is a national asset.
“So First Minister, will you act in the national interest? Will you instruct the Cabinet Secretary for Transport to purchase this site and save these jobs before it’s too late?”
The closure of the railway rolling stock maintenance depot — formerly called the St Rollox works and Glasgow works — was announced in December but talks have been continuing between the site’s owners and workers’ groups and the Scottish Government to prevent it shutting.
The Scottish Labour leader also accused Mr Matheson of saying he was opposed to state ownership and said: “Just last month, the current owners offered the depot to the Government at no cost. In fact, they even offered to pay a nominal fee to facilitate it, but the Transport Secretary told the workers’ representatives, ‘We don’t do nationalisation’.”
Ms Sturgeon defended her Government’s “willingness to intervene where it is possible” but suggested “there might be a good reason” for not buying the site.
She said: “We will always look for opportunities to save companies, save plants, that are at risk of closure, but it will not always be possible for us to do so.
“The Transport Secretary has been looking at all options over this and will – as Richard Leonard says – discuss that shortly.
“This Government has shown our willingness to intervene where it is possible, in the interests of workers, but also bearing in mind our responsibilities to the taxpayer to take action.
“We’ve done that with BiFab, we’ve done that over the Dalzell steelworks, we did it with the aluminium smelter in the north of Scotland, so this Government will always be prepared to step in but we will always be honest with people where, for whatever reason, that is not possible.”