A “CRUEL” proposal by Amazon to close its Gourock warehouse will be a “devasting blow” for hundreds of people in the town, community leaders have said, as they called for an urgent intervention from the Scottish Government.

The online retail giant has launched a consultation over the closure of the Inverclyde plant which is one of the largest employers in the area.

It will lead to the loss of around 300 local jobs and, although workers will be offered roles at other Amazon locations, the company has admitted opportunities in Scotland may be “limited”.

Managers dropped the news on staff at the Faulds Park site on Monday, which unions have described as a “kick in the teeth”.

The announcement has sparked uproar in the community with local politicians, councillors and unions stressing the planned shutdown could not come at a worse moment when so many are struggling to make ends meet and on the back of Amazon raking in huge profits during the pandemic.

READ MORE: UK Government 'vying to outdo Thatcher' with anti-strike bill

Inverclyde Council leader Stephen McCabe said the region desperately needed new jobs coming into the area rather than losing one of its biggest employers.

He called on the Scottish Government to step in and cushion the blow for families.

McCabe said: “I’m bitterly disappointed Amazon has launched a consultation to close the Gourock warehouse and the devastating knock-on effect that would have on the wider Inverclyde community, particularly the 300 people whose livelihoods are now at risk.

“We need more new jobs for the area and to retain existing ones, not lose one of our biggest employers.

“That’s precisely why the Inverclyde socio-economic task force was created jointly by ourselves and the Scottish Government to try and identify opportunities for the area.

“Given the scale of the issue and precedent of previous interventions at Ferguson Marine, twice, and Texas Instruments, government and government agencies must be ready to step in to do what they can to protect the community from the impact of this.

“As a leading partner in the task force and partner in previous jobs interventions we stand ready to support efforts to protect and retain jobs."

The Scottish Government said Scottish Enterprise is in an “active discussion with the company” about the proposed closure.

Sites in Hemel Hempstead and Doncaster in England have also been proposed for closure, with 1200 jobs set to be lost in the three areas overall.

READ MORE: MSPs to get below-inflation pay rise – here's what they'll earn now

SNP Gourock councillor Sandra Reynolds attended a meeting with Amazon on Tuesday afternoon and she said the worth of the workforce or the effect this could have on the community was not mentioned. 

She told The National: "Inverclyde is an area of high deprivation and following the ongoing effects of the Covid pandemic, Brexit and the cost of living crisis is in need of continued commitment, investment and employment from companies such as Amazon.

"During a meeting this afternoon where the ‘factors’ leading to this decision were discussed, not once was the worth of the workforce mentioned nor the effect on our community.

"I visited the Gourock site in November last year and it was stressed how much Amazon has benefitted from the loyal and committed staff, the majority of which reside in Inverclyde. They deserve so much better."

Chris McEleny, who was a councillor in Gourock for a decade before losing his seat last year, said Inverclyde Council should set up a task force to create a pool of jobs Amazon staff can transfer into.

%image('14328924', type="article-full")

He added Amazon should hand back public money it has received.

He said: “This is a big blow to Inverclyde. We need an urgent intervention from the Scottish Government to demand the cost of Amazon leaving Inverclyde is the handing back of the millions of pounds of aid they have received from the Government.

“The reality is that companies like Amazon are parasites. There will be many calls now from politicians trying to save these jobs but what we need to do is use this as an opportunity to have a step change in Government policy that rolls out the red carpet tor these large tax dodging corporations only for them to walk all over our communities. 

%image('16342247', type="article-full", alt="Stuart McMillan said the closure would 'create ripples' in the local economy")

“Inverclyde Council must also convene a task force immediately that brings local employers and the public sector together to create a pool of jobs that staff at Amazon can seamlessly transfer to if the site does close.”

Gourock councillor Martin McCluskey added: “This is a devastating blow to the many hundreds of people in Gourock and across Inverclyde who rely on Amazon for their incomes.

“It is particularly cruel for Amazon to have made this announcement in the middle of a cost of living crisis.

READ MORE: Scottish Government remains 'willing to engage with UK' on referendum

“Amazon’s profits soared during the pandemic by more than 200%. Last year they were still making billions of pounds in profit.

“Given that Amazon in Scotland have received millions of pounds of public money from Scottish Enterprise, I hope the Scottish Government will be doing everything in their power to persuade them to reverse this decision.”

Inverclyde SNP MSP Stuart McMillan and the area’s MP Ronnie Cowan have both set up urgent meetings with Amazon senior management.

McMillan said if Amazon does proceed with the closure, it will “create ripples” across the local economy and the damage could be long-lasting.

Steve Garelick, GMB union organiser, said: “This is a real kick in the teeth for Amazon staff.

“Hard-up Amazon workers can’t suddenly be expected to up sticks and move to a different fulfilment centre.

“To move forward with stability, Amazon needs to engage with the workforce through their union GMB.”

Amazon has revealed plans for two new major fulfilment centres south of the border which will create 2500 jobs over the next three years.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “It is very disappointing to learn of the announcement made by Amazon. This will be a difficult time for staff, their families and the local areas affected.

“Scottish Enterprise is in active discussion with the company to better understand the issues.

“The Scottish Government will do everything in its power to help those affected through our initiative for responding to redundancy situations, Partnership Action for Continuing Employment (PACE). Our PACE team has already contacted the company to offer PACE support in the unfortunate event it should be necessary.”