First Milk tanker

Scottish politicians have summoned First Milk’s chairman and chief executive to Edinburgh to answer urgent questions on its drastic turnaround plan.

Members of the Scottish parliament’s rural affairs, climate change and environment (RACCE) committee are concerned the plan could put the dairy industry’s future “at risk”.

Last week First Milk revealed it would cut 70 jobs and overhaul its milk payment structure – the latest in a string of controversial changes.

From June, the co-op’s farmers will be paid different prices depending on location, with raises for some and cuts for others.

Producers on the isle of Bute will the heaviest hit, with their “A” milk price cut by 1.2p/litre to 19.3p/litre.

The RACCE committee has invited First Milk chairman Jim Paice and new CEO Mike Gallacher to its meeting on Wednesday 13 May to address their concerns.

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“The committee is extremely concerned by these developments and the potential impact these may have on those farming in many of our most fragile communities, and that these may threaten the sustainability and recovery of the dairy industry in Scotland,” committee convenor Rob Gibson MSP said in a letter.

Mr Gallacher started at the co-op last month and is set to meet members in a series of regional meetings starting today (7 May).

In a statement explaining the plan, Mr Gallacher said none of the decisions had been taken lightly.

But he said the changes were necessary for a “secure and stable” future for the company.

A First Milk farmer director visited Bute’s farmers last weekend to explain the plans.

Robert MacIntyre, one of 13 First Milk producers on the island, said he was furious at the way they had been treated.

“There was no consultation whatsoever to Friday’s email,” he said. “To announce a decision as devastating as this, in this manner, just beggars belief,” he said.

First Milk could not be reached for further comment.