All hands on deck as Kelso firm tries to keep up with demand for sanitising gel

A family-run firm is taking a hands-on approach to helping keep people safe during the coronavirus pandemic.

Thursday, 9th April 2020, 11:20 am
Scotmas managing director Nicola Cameron at the company’s factory in Kelso.

In normal times, Scotmas, a chemical engineering business based on Kelso’s Pinnaclehill Industrial Estate, produces insect repellent and water disinfection products for markets worldwide.

However, as the current coronavirus crisis worsened, demand for water treatment products fell away, so the company is now focused on making vast quantities of hand gel, with staff working overtime to keep up.

Marketing director John Cove said: “We are on two shifts now to keep up with orders, and we are also making other products that are relevant for dealing with coronavirius.

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Mary Speed with colleagues Ellis Dixon and Jack McAulay at Scotmas in Kelso.

“We make surface sprays that you can use for things like wiping supermarket trolleys, car and door handles and steering wheels which will kill bacteria and viruses.

“We also make a concentrated cleaner, and it comes in various forms which we tend to sell in bulk, and our customers will take it and dilute it to some degree and use it as a cleaner for larger surface areas.

“The cleaner that we use is chlorine dioxide. There is some debate at the moment about whether it would be possible to use it as a fogging cleaner so you could spread it out as a mist. If it works as a fogging cleaner, what you can do is disinfect very large areas quite quickly.

“We are absolutely flat out in two shifts, which is unheard of, making hand gel and making surface sprays.

“There has been a bit of relocation of labour because the water treatment side of the business is very quiet.

“We have a number of retail customers, including high street pharmacies.

“We sell to Superdrug and other similar organisations.

“We sell to a couple of supermarkets. We also sell to a number of trade partners and have a number of large customers we have worked with for a number of years who sell online through all the usual retail channels.”

The family firm was founded in 1989 by chairman Derek Cameron and its current managing director is Derek’s son Alistair.

John added: “Alistair is a special constable and is on the board of South of Scotland Enterprise and he has all these contacts so the hand gel we make has been delivered to the police force, local government and the coastguard, who literally had nothing.

“The business was on two sites in Kelso until two years ago but is now combined on one larger site at the old Border Precision building.

“Derek is now into his eighties but he still keeps an eye on what is going on but the current MD is Alistair, one of Derek’s sons.

“His son Ewan is also involved in the business and heads up the agriculture side of what we do, and Angus, another son, is also involved.

“It’s very much a family firm which is very committed to Kelso as a town and grateful for the business we are in because we are able to make a practical difference.”