International firm Liberty House has declared an interest in buying two Scottish plants of beleaguered metal company Tata Steel.
Talks are said to be taking place after Tata Steel announced its decision to shed 270 jobs at its Motherwell and Clydebridge factories last year.
The closures were part of nationwide cuts to the business with a further 900 jobs being lost in Scunthorpe.
It was reported late last year that investment firm Greybull Capital is also in talks with Tata Steel for the potential sale of its long products business but it is has not been confirmed if the Scottish plants will be part of this.
It is understood that talks between Liberty Steel, Tata Steel, Greybull Capital and the Scottish Government are ongoing but nothing has yet been finalised.
The Scottish Steel Taskforce, set up in the wake of the Tata Steel closures, is set to meet for the fifth time on Thursday.
It was previously confirmed that the plants in Motherwell and Clydebridge would be mothballed unless a new buyer was found.
Liberty House reopened a steelworks in Newport, Wales, after a two-and-a-half-year closure in October.
It restarted the former Alphasteel plant to convert roll steel into coils that will be used in roads, bridges and other construction projects.
Business minister Fergus Ewing said: “Liberty House has a proven track record in the UK steel industry and this is a welcome development in the quest to secure a sustainable future for Scottish steel.
“I met Liberty management last week to outline the range of potential support that would be available from the Scottish Government and Scottish Enterprise should it succeed in a buyout.
“I also emphasised that the Scottish steel taskforce continues to work constructively to ensure a viable future for the plants, with action being taken forward on energy costs, business rates, procurement and on environmental issues.”
A support package of £195,000 to retain key staff at the plants in Motherwell and Cambuslang has been agreed by ministers.
A number of employees will be paid about 60% of gross salary and receive advanced training to ensure the sites can reopen quickly as and when production resumes, the Scottish Government said.
Responding to reports that Liberty House is interested in the Scottish mills, a spokesman for the steelworkers’ union, Community said: “As we have said all along, we welcome any interest from credible investors who want to create a sustainable future for the Dalzell and Clydebridge mills.
“This reinforces our strongly held view that the skills of the workforce and the assets at the plants can be competitive and these businesses can have a successful future with the right long-term investment.
“Clearly, there is a long way to go from an expression of interest to rebuilding the workforce and restarting production.
“This is why all stakeholders, particularly Tata Steel and the Scottish Government, need to work together and remain focused on doing all they can to preserve the assets and retain skills, so that another investor can secure jobs and bring back production as soon as practically possible.
“To achieve this there needs to be open dialogue and full consultation with Community as the representative of Scottish steelworkers.”