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End of a biscuit era

205 years of biscuit-making in Glasgow came to an end this week as Scottish brand McVities ended production. Our government shouldn't have to go cap in hand to its Turkish owner to beg them not to ruin our communities. Ownership rules should be tightened.

Sunday Post Article

James Lang opened a shop and bakery in Gallowgate in 1817. His nephew, John Macfarlane, joined the business and took over when James died. A new bread factory was built at Wesleyan Street in Calton in 1880.

The firm decided to move into machine-made biscuit manufacturing and opened the Victoria Biscuit Works on an adjoining site in 1886. Expansion to London followed, with the opening of the Imperial Biscuit Works in Fulham in 1903.

In 1925 a new Victoria Biscuit Works with modern equipment was opened in Tollcross. The Osterley factory opened in 1931 and replaced the Imperial Biscuit Works in Fulham where production had doubled during WW1. Both had extensive staff recreation facilities. Osterley closed 1980.

Macfarlane, Lang & Co. Biscuit Factory, Clydeford Drive, Glasgow. 29th December 1929. It was designed by Monro & Partners in an art deco moderne style. The architects also designed department stores for the growing Marks & Spencer chain, a major retailer of MacFarlane's biscuits.

Macfarlane Lang merged with another Scottish family-owned biscuit manufacturer, McVitie & Price to form United Biscuits in 1948. United Biscuits soon expanded to become one of Britain's leading food firms with brands including Jacob's of Aintree, Carr's of Carlisle and McVitie's.

From 2000 onwards family and plc owners were replaced by a succession of private equity and foreign owners, who loaded it with debt, failed to invest in product innovation or modernisation of factories. In 2014, Blackstone & PAI sold United Biscuits to Yildiz, now Pladis.

A selection of biscuits manufactured by Macfarlane Lang & Co, advertised in the Commercial year book of the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce & Manufactures in 1915.

A proud Glaswegian industry callously discarded by faceless men in a boardroom far from our city.

Macfarlane Lang's rich tea biscuit and cream cracker production lines at their brand new Victoria Biscuit Works, Tollcross, 1928. Over £900k in grants were given to upgrade Tollcross in recent years, now machinery is being packed up and shipped to England.

I intend to continue to press the joint trade union, council & government working group to secure the Victoria Biscuit Works in Tollcross as a viable production site for any new owner to bring new life to this great site, with such an esteemed heritage in Scottish biscuit-making.

In fact today I got to ask First Minister Nicola Sturgeon herself about the machinery, funded by £1 Million of Scottish Government grants ,asset stripped and removed to continue funding production in England.


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