Hi-tech gear ‘to be moved’ from under-threat factory
Michelin could walk away from Scotland with £8million worth of state-of-the-art machinery paid for by taxpayers.
The French tyre giants, who made £ 1.5bil lion in profit last year, have announced plans to close their Dundee factory in 2020, with the loss of 845 jobs.
Their chief executive, Jean-Dominique Senard, took the decision despite having accepted millions in government money as recently as last year. It was used to buy hi-tech kit, which sources say is easily “unbolted and moved”.
The Sunday Mail can today reveal details of the massive sums of grant funding and the industrial equipment it has been used to buy.
One north-east MSP has said “serious questions would need to be asked” if the machinery is taken out of Scotland.
Scottish Enterprise handed over an initial £1.5million portion of a £4.5million grant to modernise the site in June last year.
The money was spent buying the first electronic tyre curing technology to be installed in a large Michelin plant anywhere in the world.
In September 2015, £1.1million was given to the company to establish a “logistics hub” to increase the “capability and longevity” of the Dundee operation.
In 2011, Scottish Enterprise announced a £ 5.2million investment of taxpayers’ cash in the factory.
The money was spent “investing in new state of the art plant and equipment capable of manufacturing the latest energy saver tyre”.
John Reid, Michelin’s Dundee factory manager, admitted in 2012 that his firm had been handed “four or five times” more cash out of the Scottish Government than from any other administration in Europe.
He said: “They’ve given us a level of grant support, investment support, which is second to none.”
The firm refused to give a definitive answer on whether any money would be returned when contacted last week.
A source who has visited the Dundee factory said: “If a final decision is taken to close the plant, this machinery could easily be relocated to one of Michelin’s other 75 manufacturing plants around the world.
“The company are extremely secretive about their technology and what they have that their competitors don’t.
“The factory is hi-tech, they have robots everywhere, in the manufacturing area and in the part of the building where tyres are stacked and stored.
“It was wel l publicised that the equipment the last Government handout funded was the first to be installed by Michelin anywhere in the world.
“If Dundee closes, they aren’t just going to leave it, shut the doors and move on. It’s likely going to be unbolted and shipped to another manufacturing plant in England or abroad.
“The Scottish Government will be furious that closure plans weren’t mentioned when millions of pounds were being handed over last year.
“It seems unlikely that the company wouldn’t have been aware at that point that the long-term future of the place was under threat.”
Conservative MSP for North East Scotland, Bill Bowman, said: “These awards were made in recognition of the Michelin want to close their Dundee factory despite the French company’s roots in Scotland.
Glaswegian scientist Charles Macintosh used rubber in 1823 to make waterproof Mackintosh raincoats.
His niece Elizabeth Pugh Barker then brought rubber work going on in Dundee at the Michelin plant. As such, it would be completely wrong for the equipment bought with this cash to be taken out of Scotland.
“The expectation is any awards should have been agreed in such a way as to prioritise Dundee and the workers.
“If that’s not the case, serious questions would need to be asked.
“And if Michelin can’t find a use for it in Dundee, someone else will.”
Scottish Greens co- convener Patrick Harvie said: “The urgent priority must be to explore every possible way of safeguarding people’s existing jobs.
“At the same time, it’s important that when the public purse is opened for private companies, especially giant multinationals, there’s a guarantee of lasting benefit to the community.
“Michelin have not gone bust. They still have vast assets and if they do walk away from Dundee, they shouldn’t be taking taxpayer-funded equipment with them.”
Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie added: “I hope Michelin can be convinced to reconsider the decision to close their plant in Dundee but if they’re determined to shut up shop, it would be a welcome gesture to return these funds.”
Documents released to the Sunday Mail under freedom of information laws show to the attention of her French husband Nicolas Daubree.
He and his cousin Aristide Barbier started using it for a range of products made by their farm machinery business.
This later became the Michelin company set up by Barbier’s grandsons, Edouard and Andre Michelin.
FACT FINDER Derek Mackay visits the factory on Tuesday before announcing the action group IN PERIL Closing the Dundee factory would cost 845 staff their jobs