Last-ditch efforts to save Borders building firm Murray and Burrell have failed, leaving its 38 staff out of work as Christmas approaches.
The Galashiels company went into administration last week, and an administrator was appointed this week in the hope of preserving it as a going concern, but he was forced to concede defeat within two days.
The Roxburgh Street firm’s near-40-strong workforce, mainly tradesmen and office staff, were told last Wednesday that receivers had been called in and that the official 30-day consultation process over their jobs was under way.
Edinburgh-based accountancy firm Thomson Cooper announced partner Richard Gardiner as adminstrator of the failing business on Monday, but just a day after being appointed, he said: “The directors explored all options in an effort to preserve trading and jobs. Regrettably, 38 jobs were lost as there is no prospect of continuing to trade.”
Prior to that announcement, Murray and Burrell operations and finance director Gary Brown told The Southern: “We have entered in to a 30-day consultation process with our workforce. How that will play out we are not sure, and whether we have a future, we are not sure.”
Founded in 1928 by Sandy Burrell and Andrew Murray, the firm was, at one point, one of the region’s biggest employers. It worked predominantly in the private sector for local mills, farms and estates over the years before establishing the house-building arm of its business in the 1950s.
Now in the fourth generation of Burrell management, it cited “adverse trading conditions” as being to blame for the shock news.
Borders politicians and government agencies have been quick to offer their backing to workers affected after hearing of the firm’s demise.
Scottish Enterprise and Partnership Action for Continuing Employment were set to make contact with Murray and Burrell staff at the time of going to press, and the company’s plight has been raised at Holyrood.
Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale MSP Christine Grahame said: “It is sad that this much-respected family firm, spanning four generations, has gone into administration.
“Rooted for almost 90 years in Gala, this has not only meant the workforce are now out of work, but because of the company’s commitment to the community, it will have a substantial impact on some 15 subcontractors and 30 or so more local suppliers.”
Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce convener Jack Clark said: “Murray and Burrell will be a big loss to the community as it is a long-established business.
“There is a lot involved in running a small business, and the less constraints that these businesses have put on them the better. This just underlines that fact. Small businesses have a big on-cost in operating and the less that on-cost is the better in order for them to remain viable.”
Scottish Borders Council’s executive member for economic development, Galashiels councillor Stuart Bell, said: “I think the fact that Murray and Burrell has gone into administration is devastating news for the 38 staff involved.
“The council, through Business Gateway and Scottish Enterprise, had no knowledge that Murray and Burrell was in these difficulties. It was a surprise for us.
“I understand it has gone into voluntary liquidation, which is a controlled process.
“It means that there is the best opportunity for other businesses not to be left out of pocket and to minimise the knock-on effect.
“Scottish Borders Council will take a look at minimising any impact on the other construction industries in the Borders.”
South of Scotland Conservative list MSP Rachael Hamilton added: “This is a sad day for the Borders.
“Murray and Burrell did great work, and it is such a sadness that we hear this news.
“Murray and Burrell employed 38 people and had such a positive impact throughout.
“The focus must now be on helping those 38 employees find employment and ensure support is there for all those involved in Murray and Burrell and their families.
“Being in business is tough, and everyone needs to do all they can, including the Scottish Government, to support Scottish business, large and small.”