Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Bute cheese set to become extinct

Isle of Bute cheddarIt was disappointing to see the news that the Rothesay Creamery is to cease production – meaning that at least 19 jobs will be lost on the Isle of Bute.

Operator First Milk announced plans to close the facility in light of a significant fall in the production of milk on the island. It seems that this has fallen by more than 25% over the past two years, with the result that the creamery is under-utilised, and losing money as a result. From the outside, it has seemed that there were problems, but that things were able to continue, but it would seem that the situation is no longer sustainable, and First Milk is having to consider its responsibilities in Campbeltown and Arran, where it also has creameries. The company has said it will continue to collect milk produced on Bute, and transport it to the mainland. There are currently 14 dairy farms on the island.

There will no doubt be the usual politicised views, posturing, blame and accusations to follow from various sources, and a 30-day consultation period on the proposal is set to begin next week.

Isle of Bute Cheddar is described as a high value product, and a respected brand – I hope, I’m afraid I’m a fussy cheese eater, and don’t like cheddar – so there is always a chance that there may be someone out there with different resources and facilities on tap, which can be utilised in a way to make the product viable under the given circumstances, so there is always a chance that it may be rescued or revived

Read further details and follow developments in:

Rothesay creamery set to cease production – Buteman Today

Update March 25, 2010

The Buteman published a verbatim account of an interview where it posed several questions to First Milk’s communications director, Paul Flanagan:

First Milk: big questions, important answers – Buteman Today

Worth reading, as it tends to suggest someone has a vivid imagination, or is a stranger to the truth, as Paul Flanagan suggests that, “It is important that Alan and Robert carefully check the facts before they make allegations.

Robert is councillor Robert Macintyre, Argyll & Bute Council depute leader, council spokesman on the economy, environment and rural affairs, and Bute dairy farmer, while Alan is Alan Kennedy, Bute NFU branch chairman. Both accuse First Milk of “serious mismanagement”. Both clearly have an axe to grind with First Milk, and Paul Flanagan refuted their joint claim with performance figures quoted from recent years, showing that First Milk had far exceeded the sales performance of those companies previously managing the brand.

NFU Scotland president Jim McLaren, and colleagues George Jamieson and Lucy Sumsion, met the 14 remaining dairy farmers on Bute at the island’s Kingarth Hotel to discuss the implications of the closure announcement:

Farming bosses in Rothesay creamery talks – Buteman Today

Update April 01, 2010

It just might be that some sort of sense might be seen on Bute (of a type generally lacking on the mainland) and that a change in market trends may see a sensible response where all parties work towards a solution (which may, or may not ultimately be palatable or popular), rather than adopt unwavering “Them and Us” stances from the outset, which makes the chances of a positive outcome somewhat less than likely.

After the negative sign of the opening salvos (noted above), where both the local councillor and the NFU chairman could have provoked First Milk by accusing it of “serious mismanagement” in an apparently unjustified outburst, the news is of positive discussions, where meeting attended by First Milk, Argyll and Bute Council, NFU Scotland, HIE (Highlands and Islands Enterprise), the Bute Estate, local dairy farmers and the island’s MP Alan Reid, among others, with enterprise minister and Argyll and Bute MSP Jim Mather in the chair, ended with the news that First Milk would be prepared to sell the plant if the right deal was made.

A £15,000 feasibility study is to follow, carried out by HIE in conjunction with First Milk, tasked with examining various options for keeping the Bute creamery open.

Signs of hope after creamery talks? – Buteman Today

Update April 28, 2010

News of the decision to en production at the Rothesay Creamery on May 07, 2010, was carried by The Buteman online on April 28, 2010.

A spokesman for the creamery said the decision had been made following the continuing losses being made by the plant, and the lack of any offers to purchase the plant following the original closure announcement which had been made in mid-March.

Although a feasibility study into the marketing of milk from Bute, being carried out by the Scottish Agricultural College, was still to be completed as this closure confirmation was announced. The news report noted that some employees may be retained for a time after May 07, to mothball the plant, implying that if a workable plan resulted from the feasibility study, the plant could be restarted.

News of the closure makes depressing reading. Not because of the closure itself, but the response by local dairy farmer Alan Kennedy, who also chairs the Bute branch of the National Farmers’ Union.

Since the first announcement, his comments have been anything but constructive towards First Milk and its management, and even though he is described as a local dairy farmer, and must therefore be running a business and have books to balance, he expresses surprise that the loss-making plant has been closed as its losses increase, and has even accused the company of intending to close the creamery regardless, and of not wanting anyone else there.

If I was sitting across the negotiating table from Mr Kennedy, and that was his attitude, I would close my factory and cut my losses at the earliest opportunity.

One doesn’t have to ‘cap in hand’ to negotiations, but a certain amount of discretion might be a good idea until the outcome is confirmed.

BREAKING NEWS: Closure of Rothesay Creamery is confirmed – Buteman Today

Update January 2012

THE site of the former creamery at Townhead was purchased by local firm Bute Island Foods Ltd, from First Milk.

The company manufactures and exports Sheese, described as a dairy-free vegan alternative to cheese.

Bute firm buys Rothesay Creamery site – Local Businesses – The Buteman

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March 19, 2010 - Posted by | Civilian | , , , ,

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