SCOTLAND'S forestry minister has promised the government will do "everything it can" to help staff at a major sawmill that's been earmarked for closure. 

Mairi McAllan described news of Boat of Garten's imminent demise as a "blow", with BSW Group chiefs, who run the Cairngorms National Park site, announcing plans to halt production at the facility by the end of September. 

Blaming the cost-of-living crisis and the war in Ukraine for the decision, Tony Hackney also cited a "global downturn" in the timber market when he confirmed the proposals, which could see around 40 jobs lost. 

READ MORE: BSW's Boat of Garten sawmill to shut this September with 40 job losses expected

Speaking this evening, Ms McAllan, the environment minister whose portfolio includes forestry, said: “The announcement from the BSW Group is of course a blow to their excellent skilled staff.

Forestry Journal: Mairi McAllanMairi McAllan

"I would like the staff at Boat of Garten to know that the Scottish Government and its agencies will do everything it can to assist during this difficult time.

“I know that Highlands and Islands Enterprise is working hard to help and try to mitigate the need for any job losses.

"To this end, the company is being encouraged to explore all available options for redeploying affected staff."

MSP for Inverness and Nairn Fergus Ewing said yesterday on his social media that "every effort must be made" to keep the employees in work. He also requested a meeting with Ms McAllan, who has tonight confirmed she will do so. 

She added: “I know that Scottish Forestry has already been in touch with the company.

”Whilst this news is a blow for the area, we do need to recognise the important role of sustainably-grown timber in low carbon manufacturing and construction and the general outlook for domestic timber processing is encouraging. This is reflected in recent and continuing investment in timber processing throughout Scotland.”

The decision by BSW is the latest to draw criticism, following changes to the payment system of Tilhill (another of its subsidiaries), meaning some operators will face a 10-week wait for payment, rather than the former fortnightly, self-billing basis. That decision was branded as "cruel" by the Forestry Contracting Association (FCA). 

READ MORE: Boat of Garten: Is sawmill's proposed closure a sign of things to come?

BSW Group’s Tony Hackney said earlier: “Since our acquisition by Binderholz, we have continued to make significant investments in technology, innovation and processes, which will enable the business to achieve its future growth plans and efficiency targets.

“However, under the backdrop of a pandemic, the conflict in Ukraine, increasing energy costs and a 40-year high in cost of living expenses, the timber industry has experienced a global downturn.

“To counter the impact of this, we have had to make the very tough decision to propose to close our sawmill at Boat of Garten from 30 September 2022.”