Lochboisdale harbour blow as seaweed processors pull out

The ongoing harbour develop­ment project at Lochboisdale in South Uist has been dealt a blow with the news that seaweed processing company Marine Biopolymers Ltd is pulling out of plans to build a seaweed factory as part of the development.

The Ayrshire-based company had been planning to invest £20 million building a seaweed processing factory on the island of Gasaigh, creating up to 60 jobs and bringing much needed investment to the Uists. It has emerged that the board of Marine Biopolymers have now decided to locate their new factory at Barcaldine near Oban.

A previous seaweed processing factory at Barcaldine closed in the mid-90s and has been mothballed ever since.

MBL director David Mackie confirmed that they would not be proceeding with the factory at Lochboisdale but refused to elaborate on the reasons behind the company’s decision.

Fellow MBL director Angus MacMillan, former chairman of community landlords Stòras Uibhist, said: “MBL have considered a number of options for locating a production plant in Scotland. At this time the board have voted in favour of Barcaldine as the preferred site.

“However the board is also looking at more efficient and cost-effective operations and locations. This project is a significant manufacturing opportunity for Scotland — many decisions are required before any final decisions are concluded.”

The news of the pull-out is a huge blow to Stòras who have been negotiating with MBL for a number of years in an attempt to persuade the company to locate in Uist.
Stòras chief executive Huw Francis said: “It is very disappointing that a potential tenant is considering locating somewhere else.”

However he refused to give up hope and stressed that they would make every effort to convince MBL to reconsider, saying: “We will continue to work hard to persuade MBL to change their mind and locate in Lochboisdale in what would be a purpose-built site with top-quality infrastructure and utilities already in place.”

Mr Francis did concede that Stòras were actively seeking a replacement for MBL: “We are talking to a number of other potential com­panies/tenants for the site at Gasaigh in Lochboisdale,” he said.

Local MSP Alasdair Allan said: “Clearly the news that Marine Biopolymers do not intend to invest in Lochboisdale comes as a severe blow to the hopes of development in this part of South Uist.
“I will be in touch with both Stòras Uibhist and HIE to seek a way forward in this difficult situation and I have made the Enterprise Minister Fergus Ewing aware of the concern which this news has created.”