A WEE COUNTY factory has closed after more than 30 years of production, with almost 100 members of staff being forced to find other jobs.

The Benkert factory, situated in Alva, made cigarette tippings and closed on Friday, December 19 with the entire staff being made redundant.

Staggered redundancies began in August and continued throughout the months up until the closure on Friday.

Ally Campbell, who worked at the factory for more than 17 years as a press preparer, finished on Wednesday, December 17.

Around three years ago the factory was sold to Austrian company Delfort and it left Ally and the staff hopeful that their jobs would be safer.

He said: "At that time I would say we were all quite hopeful our jobs might be a bit more secure because we thought we might branch out into something else instead of just doing

the cigarette tippings.

"Then about two years ago they announced they had bought a factory in Bulgaria, which done some cigarette tippings also. At that time I thought that was negative news for us."

A letter sent to staff, seen by the Advertiser, stated the company saw sustained difficult trading conditions over a period of 10 years due to the reduction in smoking.

The letter states: "The company has faced a sustained fall in customer demand, order volume…and profitability for the Alva site over this period."

It also blames the uncertainty of the Brexit and the pressure on pound sterling, as well as the Covid-19 pandemic and other factors, as the reasons behind the closing of the factory.

Ally continued: "I think about 90 [people still worked at the factory] so it wasn't the biggest employer in the county, but still a substantial loss."

Some staff from Benkert applied to LumiraDX, a medical factory in Stirling who were hiring when the announcement was made and were successful.

Ally said: "It was kind of fortunate the way it happened because a lot of people who applied for Lumira were successful.

"It's been a big blow for quite a lot of people, but fortunately, as I say, opportunities arose at the same time as the announcement of the factory closure so a lot of people moved on."

All staff who had been there for more than two years received a redundancy payment.

Two apprentices who had started just over a year ago were also given a severance package.

The factory was originally known as Interbobbin and located in Tillicoultry before moving to the Alva site around 35 years ago.

In 2010, a huge blaze almost burned the factory to the ground and saw, at one point, around 100 firefighters work around the clock to battle the inferno.

The Delfort Group were unavailable for comment when contacted by the Advertiser.