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Salmond hopeful of Grangemouth deal
Workers walk through the Grangemouth oil refinery in Falkirk, Scotland, following a meeting where owners Ineos have decided to shut down the petrochemical side of the complex
Scotland's First Minister has said he is "very hopeful indeed" that the owner of the Grangemouth plant will announce a change in position following its shock decision to close the site.
Operator Ineos announced on Wednesday that it would shut the petrochemical arm of the central Scotland facility, with the potential loss of 800 jobs.
Staff at the site are waiting to hear if the firm will grant a reprieve to the closure-threatened operation after the Unite union reversed its opposition to a survival plan aimed at securing the site's future.
First Minister Alex Salmond said he believed people have been going the extra mile to reach a deal and he was now "very confident that we'll get a much better announcement" from the firm today.
"We have reason to be confident that we're looking at an infinitely better prospect than we were just 48 hours ago," he told BBC Radio Scotland.
He told the Good Morning Scotland programme: "My estimation is that I would now be very hopeful indeed that there will be a change in position from Ineos today and I'm absolutely certain there's a future for chemicals in Grangemouth."
Asked if he believed both the site's petrochemical plant and refinery have a future under Ineos, he said: "I believe there will be a change of position from Ineos today and that will be a favourable change in position.
"My reason for saying that is that everybody has been going that extra mile I've called for.
"Given that only 48 hours ago we were looking at a major industrial catastrophe in Scotland, I think we're in a much better position this Friday morning.
"We'll hear today, but I would be very hopeful indeed that there's a change in position from the company and I would be absolutely certain there's a future for the chemicals industry in Grangemouth."
Mr Salmond said the trade unions have now offered that there will be no industrial action for three years.
"That's an indication that however we got to this impasse two days ago, there has now been substantial movement of people anxious to save their jobs, their livelihoods and their plants," he told the programme.
Ineos has been considering a change in position by the Unite union whose members now say they will commit to a plan aimed at securing the plant's future.
The petrochemicals plant and adjoining oil refinery making up Scotland's largest industrial complex was shut down last week in advance of a planned walkout over pay and conditions.
Ineos did not restart the site after Unite called off the strike but wrote to staff asking them to sign up to changes such as a pay freeze and the closure of the final salary pension.
The company insisted on Wednesday that it had no alternative but to close the plant after it failed to persuade its staff to accept the survival plan but Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said yesterday that the union would embrace it ''warts and all''.
A statement is expected from Ineos today on the petrochemical business which employs 800 people directly and a further 2,000 sub-contractors.
''We are not going to let this plant close,'' Mr McCluskey said last night.
''This plant is on cold shutdown and each day that goes by makes it harder to start back up again, which is why the stewards made the offer to the company - so that we can get people back to work.''
UK Government officials have admitted it would be a ''challenge'' to find another company to buy the business, which Ineos has said is losing £10 million a month.
The losses and the scale of investment needed to upgrade the site, coupled with the industrial relations, would all have to be considered by any potential buyer, officials said.
But they insisted there would be no shortage of fuel supplies as a result of the dispute.
Ministers from the Scottish and UK Governments held talks with Unite and management yesterday and said both administrations were doing all they could to keep the site open.
Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael said: ''It's clear that we're dealing with a different situation following the statement from Unite that they were prepared to accept the Ineos survival plan without any pre-conditions.
" There remains of course a great deal to be done.''
Mr Carmichael said the decision about the future of the plant lies ultimately with company shareholders.
Unite and Ineos have been embroiled in a bitter dispute for weeks, initially over the treatment of Unite convenor Stephen Deans, who was involved in the row over the selection of a Labour candidate in Falkirk, where he is chairman of the constituency party.
He was suspended, then reinstated, and is facing an internal investigation, which is due to report today.
The dispute dramatically widened to the future of the entire site, with Ineos warning that it would close without fresh investment and changes to pay, pensions and other conditions.