An Aberdeenshire firm praised by Nicola Sturgeon just two weeks ago for its work bottling hand sanitiser claims its contract has not been fulfilled by the Scottish Government, forcing 45 staff to be put on furlough.
Food ingredients manufacturer Macphie, headquartered at the Glenbervie Estate, Aberdeenshire, has been working in collaboration with other Scottish businesses to produce hand sanitiser, to be supplied direct to NHS facilities and has already produced around 90,000 bottles.
In a statement, the Scottish Government maintained the family-owned firm, and other bottling firms, had “fulfilled the contracts” placed with it, adding a new contract has now been placed with another Scottish firm for the next share of the product, based on “cost and capacity”.
But Macphie’s CEO Andy Stapley claims the company were told they would be responsible for bottling 250,000 hand gel products but was cut short at 90,000 bottles, adding the Scottish Government had “not fulfilled” that commitment.
As a result, the firm, which employs more than 300 workers across the UK, said it has been forced to furlough 45 staff primarily based at its Tannochside site, near Glasgow.
With this news, sadly we’ve had to announce today that our Tannochside site will cease operating while the current crisis continues, as it is not financially viable.”
Andy Stapley, CEO of Macphie.
Mr Stapley, said: “I am extremely disappointed with the decision to cancel these orders.
“Our team worked incredibly hard to repurpose our production facility and we were one of the first Scottish businesses to answer the call to join a collaboration in producing this much-needed product.
“We’re a food manufacturer, supplying primarily to the food service market, so a large part of our customer base simply ceased trading overnight following the lockdown order.
“Producing hand sanitiser allowed us to keep the site operating and maintain employment while supplying a much-needed frontline resource – this felt like a win-win.
“With this news, sadly we’ve had to announce today that our Tannochside site will cease operating while the current crisis continues, as it is not financially viable.
“Forty-five additional staff will now be placed on furlough and we will face further financial exposure due to materials sourced specifically for these orders.”
The CEO said it has already paid for bottles and bottle tops, which were no longer required as a result of work ending, costing the firm around £10,000 to £15,000.
The first minister mentioned the firm, based on the Glenbervie Estate, at her daily coronavirus briefing a fortnight ago as she gave her “heartfelt thanks” to businesses contributing to the fight against the pandemic.
Macphie, which has made its name as a food and ingredient manufacturer, was one of more than 1,600 Scottish firms or individuals to answer a call for help issued to the business community around a month ago.
Ms Sturgeon said the supply chain had been set up in an “incredibly short space of time” and added that it had already produced 20,000 litres of hand sanitiser.
Over the next four weeks, Ms Sturgeon said the businesses would manufacture and bottle 560,000 litres which would be “enough to meet the needs of Scotland’s entire health and social care sector”.
West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine MP Andrew Bowie said the First Minister and the SNP have a “lot of explaining to do”.
He added: “Regardless of how the contract has played out, this has obviously been a shock to Macphie.
“They were held up as an exemplar of can-do, Scottish pragmatism in the face of a challenge.
“And they are a key employer in the area, contribute so much to the Mearns, and are representative of the kind of effort local businesses are making in the fight against Covid-19.
“Many north-east food and drink firms have put their backs into helping protect key workers.
“Going elsewhere on the cheap sends absolutely the wrong message to them.”
“We are grateful to all the Scottish companies who have rallied to support the NHS at this critical time.”
Scottish Government spokesman
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Macphie, along with other bottling firms, has fulfilled the contracts placed with it – to bottle hand sanitiser being produced by Calachem to supply the NHS and social care sector.
“A new contract for this work is now being placed with another Scottish bottling firm for the next tranche of Calachem product, on grounds of cost and capacity.
“We are grateful to all the Scottish companies who have rallied to support the NHS at this critical time.
“Decisions about where to fill bottles will continue to take into account the needs of NHS clinicians and the best possible value for money, as we work to keep the NHS supplied.”