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Wind turbine maker sends workers home while buyer sought

More than 120 workers at Highland wind turbine factory Skykon have been sent home after the facility fell into the hands of administrators.

The uncertain future of the Campbeltown factory – the only major turbine maker north of the Border – is a blow for Scotland’s aspirations to lead the way in renewable energy generation.

Insolvency specialists from Ernst & Young held a meeting with staff at the manufacturing base in Machrihanish yesterday morning, when workers were told that just six of the 130-strong workforce would be kept on to assist administrators.

The remainder have been asked to take unpaid leave while a buyer is sought.

In October, the factory’s Danish parent company admitted it had filed for a “suspension of payment” in the Danish courts, saying it was in a “very cash-strapped situation”.

Administrator Andrew Davison of Ernst & Young said: “We are currently reviewing the facility’s financial position and order book with a view to assessing its immediate trading prospects.

“Some initial expressions of interest have been made and all options will be explored to find a future for the site.”

It is thought that staff will be asked to return to the factory next week, when Ernst & Young will issue a further update.

The Scottish Government ploughed millions of pounds of grant funding into the factory less than two years ago in a bid to rescue the facility, previously owned by Vestas.

Skykon acquired the eight-year-old wind tower manufacturing plant through a new company called Welcon Towers in March 2009 after winning a pledge of £9.2 million of funding from the Scottish Government and Scottish Development International, through a Regional Selective Assistance grant. It said in October that just £2.4m of the grant money had been paid out – and payments would be suspended until Skykon’s financial problems had been clarified.

Business groups vowed to work to try to save the factory, a major employer in the area.

Douglas Cowan, area manager for Argyll and the Islands at Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), said: “HIE and our partners have been working hard to avoid this outcome for Campbeltown. We will now do all we can to assist the administrator to identify and negotiate with a new operator.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Government added: “Scottish Development International and HIE are working with the administrators and their various stakeholders to achieve a positive outcome and every effort is being made to secure the viability of the asset and long-term, low-carbon jobs for the area.”