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Liberty’s fresh start for Scottish steel
A fresh chapter for steelmaking in Scotland began today (Friday 8th April 2016) as senior Liberty House representatives, arrived to begin work on the re-opening and recovery of the two mothballed plate operations at Dalzell and Clydebridge.
In a ceremony at Dalzell in Motherwell, representatives of outgoing owners, Tata Steel, formally handed over the keys to the two historic plants, and Liberty hoisted their corporate flag at Dalzell to mark the start of a new era in Scottish Steel Industry which dates back over a century.
Liberty House, a global metals and industrial group, has a growing track record for rescuing and rebuilding major steel enterprises. Over the past six months the firm has saved more than 1,200 jobs at steel plants in Wales and the West Midlands, and it now aims to re-establish these Scottish plate operations with a new business model, gradually restoring the jobs lost over recent months.
The agreement to save the two Lanarkshire plants was struck on March 24th and made possible by the Scottish Government which facilitated a ‘back-to-back’ deal between Liberty and Tata Steel.
With the deal now set to complete Liberty intends that its new plate division will regain its position in the marketplace, growing its workforce back to its previous strength over the next year. In coming months Liberty expects to create around 150 new jobs to get the plants up and running again.
Liberty has a vision for GREEN STEEL, using renewable energy to melt the readily available supply of scrap in Britain. This vision is counter to the current UK Steel Industry that relies on the import of iron ore and coal from far flung corners of the globe.
In the medium term, Liberty wants to create an end-to-end process that starts with the melting of UK recovered scrap steel and continues through the manufacture and distribution of high-quality downstream steel products.
Speaking during the ‘hand-over’ ceremony at Dalzell, Sanjeev Gupta, executive chair of Liberty House explained that the company was establishing a roadmap for the recovery of the plate businesses and he was optimistic about their future.
He said: “Despite the current anxieties surrounding steel, I believe the sector has a future in the UK and, more particularly, a future here in Scotland. Like in Wales and the West Midlands, where our business model is already at work, steel is very much part of the fabric of Scottish industry and we are confident we have the calibre of people here who will keep it where it belongs, at the heart of the economy.”
Mr Gupta added: “We are truly very grateful to the Scottish Government and Scottish Enterprise for their belief in this industry and their relentless efforts to help Tata Steel and ourselves reach this agreement. Without their exceptional and exemplary attitude to saving these plants, we would not have been able to stand here today collecting the keys. I would particularly commend the leadership and tenacity of The First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon and her Business Minister, Fergus Ewing.
“This is our first step in Scotland, based on our experience so far we are confident we can build on this positive relationship, leading us to further opportunities and investments that will benefit the Scottish economy.”
Liberty also announced that it has appointed Jon Bolton, one of the most prominent figures in the UK steel industry, as chief executive of its new plate division, encompassing Dalzell and Clydebridge, he has also been appointed as a member of the Liberty Steel UK management team.
Jon has spent more than 30 years in the steel industry on both sides of the Atlantic, most of them in senior positions with Tata Steel and its predecessors Corus and British Steel. As director of Tata Steel Europe’s Long Products business, he previously ran the Dalzell and Clydebridge sites as part of a wider remit. He is chairman of the industry representative body, UK Steel, and currently chairs the UK Steel Council jointly with Secretary of State, Sajid Javid.
Speaking at today’s event he said: “This momentous occasion would not have been possible without the commitment and dedication of Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise, the trade unions and most of all the employees at the two plants. Even though we have significant challenges ahead, this is an exciting opportunity to build a sustainable plate business in Scotland and in the UK using our new model and a fresh approach. Our immediate objective is to re-engage with people and with our future customers.”
He said there would be many market opportunities for the plants’ products, in areas such as ship building, heavy vehicle manufacture, wind turbines and the construction and civil engineering industries.
Business Minister Anna Soubry attended the ceremony following on from recent meetings Mr Gupta has held with her and the Secretary of State Sajid Javid, to discuss the future plans of Liberty for the UK Steel Industry.
Tor Farquhar, Tata Steel Executive Director HR: “As a responsible seller Tata Steel is pleased that a deal to pass the Dalzell and Clydebridge sites to a new owner is nearing completion.
“Today’s ceremony is the next step in a process which could see steel again being processed in Scotland and has been made possible by all parties coming together to ‘leave no stone unturned’ in seeking a potential solution for these sites.”
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