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Senior politicians to boycott Diageo golf championships at Gleneagles

Published: 26/08/2009

By EMILY PYKETT

Robert Rock plays from the rough on the 18th at Gleneagles

Robert Rock plays from the rough on the 18th at Gleneagles


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SCOTTISH politicians are being urged to steer clear of corporate hospitality invitations from Diageo for this weekend's Johnnie Walker golf championship at Gleneagles.

Unite, the union which has launched a campaign to save 900 jobs across Diageo's Scottish-based operations, is furious that the drinks giant is sponsoring a prestigious sporting tournament while it considers significant changes to its Scottish operations.

Unite regional secretary for Scotland John Quigley said: "Diageo isn't in financial difficulty, as the sponsorship of this prestigious sporting tournament makes crystal-clear.

"Diageo still wants to slash 900 jobs in Scotland in a move that will devastate families and communities across Scotland.

"The workers have contributed immensely to the type of success that delivers huge profits, a £5 million annual wage for Diageo's CEO Paul Walsh and glitzy sponsorship of high-profile events."

He added: "We are asking politicians to support the campaign by formally rejecting Diageo's overtures."

Diageo has confirmed that First Minister Alex Salmond, who has led the protests against its plans to scale down its Scottish operations, is top of the guest list. However, a Scottish Government spokesman said last night Mr Salmond would not be attending, because his diary did not allow it.

It is not yet known how many senior MPs and MSPs have decided to boycott Diageo's offer.

Last night, a spokesman for Labour MP Jim Sheridan told The Scotsman: "He has not yet received such an invitation from Diageo but given that workers are on the brink of losing everything, he would not feel it would be appropriate to attend such an event in any case."

Gordon Banks, the Labour MP for Ochil and South Perthshire, where Diageo is a big employer, said he had been invited, but would not be attending as he is on holiday in Spain this weekend.

Finance secretary John Swinney was due tonight to chair the Diageo taskforce as it develops its alternative proposals to reverse the company's plans. It is not known if he had an invitation to Gleneagles from Diageo.

Last night, Mr Swinney said: "The consequences of Diageo's plans are unacceptable and the taskforce is united in working to keep jobs and economic activity at Kilmarnock and Port Dundas (in Glasgow).

"Since the taskforce meeting last week, Scottish Enterprise, in partnership with the unions and local authorities, has been working to build compelling alternative proposals. We will do everything within our powers to support as many jobs as possible in Kilmarnock and Port Dundas and preserve the generations of tradition in both communities.

"Tonight's meeting is crucial in agreeing and finalising the strongest possible alternative proposal to present to Diageo at the earliest opportunity."

A Diageo spokesman defended the firm's sponsorship activities and said: "The Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles is another example of our commitment to invest in our brands and in Scotland."

The firm claims that it will save some £20 million a year by closing plants in Kilmarnock and Port Dundas, guaranteeing the company's long-term prospects.

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