Swinney promises extra talks with Hawick mill bosses

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Finance Minister John Swinney has agreed to return to Hawick for round-the-table talks with mill bosses later this year.

The assurance was given during a textile summit held at Peter Scott & Co last week as part of the SNP’s charm offensive on the town.

Although no promises were made, those in attendance say they had Mr Swinney’s full attention during a discussion which has been hailed as positive.

Benny Hartop, managing director of Hawick Knitwear, said: “The meeting with Mr Swinney was a really good opportunity for us to put the issues that concern us to him.

“The key things that we discussed were innovation and training, and it was good to hear that everyone shared the same thoughts. I am especially keen for training to receive a better level of funding, to ensure that we have support for modern apprentices.

“There was no commitment given from Mr Swinney, but he has agreed to meet up again before the end of October. His words were good, but we will have to see if he follows them up.”

Exports in the textiles sector totalled £590million in 2011 and with the industry currently employing 10,000 people, the Scottish Government says it is keen to expand into developing markets such as the Far East, as well as examining other opportunities such as textile tourism.

Hawick councillor Stuart Marshall, who also attended the meeting, says he was pleased to hear that building on the success currently being enjoyed by local mills was high on the agenda.

“All the heads of industry who were present certainly made the minister aware of the issues facing their companies,” he stated.

Anthony Stennett, group head of sales for Peter Scott and Lochcarron of Scotland, said Mr Swinney reaffirmed the Scottish Government’s support for the ‘Made in Scotland’ brand.

Mr Stennett said: “The timing of the visit could not have been better – the local knitwear business is thriving. To continue to grow we need investment in skills and innovation. We welcome Mr Swinney’s interest in the Borders textile and knitwear industry and look forward to higher levels of funding in support of expansion.”

Following the meeting, Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth, Mr Swinney said: “The Scottish Government is committed to supporting the Scottish textiles industry.

“I was delighted to have the opportunity to hear the views of some of the key partners from the Scottish Borders textiles industry. Our discussions were positive and will form the basis for deeper engagement between public and private sector partners in this dynamic sector.”