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23 July 2009

Support for Johnnie Walker Campaign gathers momentum as Minister signs Petition

The vociferous campaign to “Keep Johnnie Walker in Kilmarnock” received a boost today as Scottish Government Minister, Stewart Stevenson took time out from a whistle stop tour of East Ayrshire to sign the petition pleading with drinks giant Diageo to keep 700 jobs in the district.

Mr Stevenson, Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change was in East Ayrshire to sign the East Ayrshire Community Planning Partnership’s Single Outcome Agreement which sets out the continuing relationship between the Scottish Government and Local Government based on mutual trust, respect and partnership. The agreement also underpins the funding arrangements to be provided to Local Government over the next two years until March 2011.

Part of the Minister’s visit included a trip to the newly refurbished Baird Institute in Cumnock, where he was reminded of the extensive history surrounding Johnnie Walker’s presence as a major employer in the area for nearly 200 years. After viewing artefacts in the Baird Museum, the Minister was keen to sign the petition and express his support for the campaign being run by the cross party group within East Ayrshire Council and partners to try to save the Kilmarnock bottling plant. The Minister spoke about how his father’s first cousin James Stevenson (who later became 1st Baron Stevenson) joined the Johnnie Walker company in 1888, working his way up to become its joint Managing Director. He is credited with having come up with the company’s advertising slogan ‘Born in 1820 – still going strong’.

Expressing his support for East Ayrshire’s efforts, the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Stewart Stevenson said: “I am delighted to be in East Ayrshire for the signing of this year’s Single Outcome Agreements - which signals the path to a successful future for the area.

“I will also sign the Keep Johnnie Walker in Kilmarnock petition and emphasise that the Scottish Government is doing everything we can to protect the jobs at the Diageo plants in Kilmarnock and Glasgow. The significant support for this petition - with more than 10,000 signatories already - demonstrates the people of Scotland’s opposition to the company’s plans.

“We are working hard with all our partners to put together the strongest possible alternative business case and I believe that with goodwill on all sides, then movement is possible towards a position which will safeguard jobs, as well as meeting Diageo's key financial objectives.”

The cross party group fronting the Keep Johnnie Walker in Kilmarnock campaign on behalf of East Ayrshire Council, said: “We are very pleased that several Scottish Government Ministers have now signed our petition, thereby pledging their support to this extremely important campaign. It is essential that we remain a united front to Keep Johnnie Walker in Kilmarnock and we hope that the high level of support we have received so far can be maintained over the coming weeks.”

The Minister’s visit also took in Dumfries House, where he discussed the regeneration investment being made in the south of the Authority including the development by His Royal Highness, the Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay of a sustainable community at land adjacent to Dumfries Estate at Knockroon.

The Minister then boarded the revolutionary “Bio Bus” and met with Stagecoach representatives to discuss this innovative project, from where he went on to the newly built eco-friendly Galston Primary School, which uses sustainable energy and grey water harvesting.

NOTE:

To learn more about the Keep Johnnie Walker in Kilmarnock Campaign or to sign the online petition visit www.keepjohnniewalkerinkilmarnock.com.

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