Trade minister Ivan McKee has said Scotland is “moving towards self-sufficiency” in the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE), while also creating new jobs for the country.
He told MSPs that as health and care staff worked to treat Covid-19 patients, efforts were taking place behind the scenes to ensure more of the key equipment they need was produced in Scotland.
Mr McKee said the country is now “moving towards self sufficiency”, with new supply chains built up for the production of items such as gowns, masks and hand sanitiser.
CalaChem in Grangemouth is now using spirit form Scottish distilleries to produce hand sanitiser, with the company making enough to “satisfy all current health and social care needs in Scotland”, he said.
The minister told Holyrood how Annan-based Alpha Solway is about to start making the masks needed by intensive care staff – with the company expected to be producing more than five million a week when “fully up and running”.
This volume is “well above Scotland’s demand”, with the potential for some of the equipment to be exported, he said.
Mr McKee said the work is expected to create up to to 50 new jobs at the company’s sites in Dumfries and Annan.
“Scotland’s production of PPE is not only building self-sufficiency but also creating jobs and opening export opportunities,” he said.
He also told MSPs about the efforts the Scottish Government’s efforts to secure PPE from overseas before these arrangements were put in place.
Mr McKee spoke of the difficulties of doing this as “global demand for PPE and equipment had risen exponentially, sources of supply had dried up and trade barriers had increased”.
He told MSPs: “Usual supply chains faltered as movement restrictions and lockdowns were imposed in China and other major centres of production.
“At the same time, the capacity to move international freight by air dwindled rapidly as passenger flights were curtailed and planes grounded.”
He added: “In recent weeks, and despite the international difficulties I mentioned, we have brought in seven charter flights delivering over 64 million face masks, 130,000 reusable gowns, 120,000 test kits and 1,300 infusion pumps with more to follow.
“Much-needed ventilators and oxygen concentrators have arrived from the US and China, and in the spirit of mutual aid and assistance, our flights have carried cargo for the NHS in Wales.”