The jobs of over 80 workers at one of the Borders’ most famous mills, which weaves tartan for Scottish regimental kilts, are under threat.
Just two years ago, the Duke and Duchess of Rothesay toured March Street Mills in Peebles, meeting staff of Replin Fabrics – who design and produce cloth for use in trains and planes – and met designers and spinners for Robert Noble.
The latter have also woven tartan for military kilts and trews for around 150 years and were awarded a major contract by the Ministry of Defence in 2007 to manufacture tartan for kilts for the Royal Regiment of Scotland.
But now owner Moorbrook Textiles says a new owner for the two brands, and March Street Mills, is the best way to secure continued production and employment for the 87 staff.
The company is blaming the seasonal and volatile nature of the textiles business, coupled with changes in global demand, for the mills’ failure to achieve sustainable positive financial results.
Efforts have been made over recent months to identify potential buyers, but last week the company admitted the search has so far been unsuccessful.
And last week, Ian Laird, managing director of Moorbrook Textiles, announced that the continuing losses mean that if a buyer or alternative solution cannot be found, production at the mills will cease this year.
All 87 employees were informed last week of the possible closure and the start of a 30-day consultation process.
Mr Laird said senior management of the firm were aware of the impact the potential closure of the mills would have on the local community.
“It remains our earnest hope a buyer can be found who can offer a better strategic fit for the excellent products and hard-working workforce at March Street Mills,” he added.
Manufacturing at Moorbrook’s mill in Ayrshire is unaffected and some Peebles staff may be offered the opportunity to relocate to the Ayr business.
News that the formal statutory redundancy procedure had started for the workers sent shockwaves through the local community, says Tweeddale MP David Mundell.
“The company tells me the site has been losing money for some time and their primary objective now is to find a buyer for the business who can turn it round,” Mr Mundell told The Southern.
“I am speaking to both Scottish and UK Government ministers to see what can be done to help in finding that buyer.”