Torry Laboratory rescue group remains optimistic

July 28, 1995

The Aberdeen Research Consortium has not lost hope that the work of the threatened Torry Food Science Laboratory will remain in the city despite a Government decision to close it next year.

The Government is planning to relocate the Torry laboratory to York as part of the reorganisation of the Ministry of Agriculture's central science laboratory. But after strenuous lobbying, ARC won a 30-day reprieve to evaluate the prospects for distributing the Torry research among its other members, which include Aberdeen and the Robert Gordon Universities, the Aberdeen campus of the Scottish Agricultural College and the Scottish Office marine laboratory.

A task force headed by Hugh Pennington of Aberdeen University's department of medical microbiology has presented its proposals to Douglas Hogg, the new Secretary of State for Agriculture, who confirmed that the laboratory would close in 1996, but said he would shortly make a further announcement "on the consequential changes for the work currently undertaken by the laboratory".

Michael Forsyth, Secretary of State for Scotland, is believed to be pressing for a serious study of the research consortium's proposals, and a Scottish Office spokeswoman said it was hoped that a number of high quality scientific jobs would remain in the North-east.

There has been substantial local support for the campaign, which ARC says marks the importance of retaining the capability of addressing food safety issues within Scotland. The consortium is not making its proposals public on the grounds that there are sensitivities surrounding the Torry staff's future job prospects, and the commercial nature of parts of the report.

But Maxwell Irvine, principal of Aberdeen University and chairman of ARC, said the task force had done a magnificent job in producing such a strong scientific case for the continued local retention of the laboratory's research capabilities in such a short time.

"What we've demonstrated without a doubt is that we could supply a stronger scientific service to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food at considerably less cost than either keeping the lab open as it is, or transferring the staff to York," he said.

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