First minister promises talks with Ovo Energy to see if redundancies can be prevented or mitigated

First minister Nicola Sturgeon has given assurance that the Scottish Government, working through Scottish Enterprise, will work with Ovo Energy to “prevent or mitigate” any redundancies at the company after its decision this week to close its Selkirk office.

The company announced on Tuesday that due to the coronavirus lockdown, more of its customers were using the internet to deal with their power supply accounts, and because of this the Selkirk offices, which employs 380 people, will be closed and the company would enter a stage of voluntary redundancy.

It’s an incredibly bleak outlook for the Borderers who work for the company, with Borders MP John Lamont saying the announcement was a “devastating” one for those involved and the Borders economy.

At yesterday’s First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood, Borders MSP Rachael Hamilton – speaking through an internet link – asked Mrs Sturgeon what the government was planning to do to support affected employees.

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - MAY 20: Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon attends First Ministers Questions at Holyrood on May 20, 2020 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Fraser Bremner-Pool/Getty Images)

She said: “Yesterday, Ovo Energy announced it will completely close its Selkirk office in my constituency, and the cuts will see 380 staff affected.

“It remains unclear how many jobs will be lost entirely.

“These job losses are devastating for a fragile rural economy like the Scottish Borders, and the young people in particular will be affected acutely.

“Can I ask the first minister what the Scottish Government’s response is to these job losses, and in the pandemic lockdown, will the PACE services be operating as normal to support these devastating job losses?”

First minister Nicola Sturgeon replied: “Can I thank the member for that question, and I deeply regret, as I know she does, the announcement from Ovo Energy, which has a huge impact on Selkirk, but also has an impact in Perth, for example, where there are also people employed by the company.

“We will, through Scottish Enterprise, continue to engage with this company or any company facing a similar situation to consider if there are actions we can take to prevent or mitigate redundancies, but I can also give assurance that we will also make sure that PACE is operational.

“Like everything else, it may have to operate in a slightly different way to maintain safe working practices, but that support will be available for people who are facing a redundancy situation, and that support is going to be even more important in the weeks and months to come than it has been in the past few years.

“That assurance is one that I will give and the economy secretary will be very open and will be happy to discuss individual situations like this with members of constituencies whose constituents are affected.”

After the session, Mrs Hamilton said: “I highlighted the issue of job losses in Selkirk with the First Minister, as many are facing an unprecedented situation.

“The news that jobs are to be lost is a major blow to the Borders economy, the effects of which are felt more acutely in rural areas.

“I am glad that the Scottish Government have been working with Scottish Enterprise to ensure that support is offered, but it comes at a time when the economic outlook looks bleak.

“I’m here to offer assistance to anyone affected by the loss of jobs in Selkirk, and I will help as best I can to ensure that the impact of potential job losses is kept to a minimum.”