A senior SNP Councillor and trade unionist has welcomed the news that seven of the surviving leaders of the famous UCS work in on the Clyde from 1971 are supporting a YES vote in September’s independence referendum.
Deputy Leader of the council’s SNP Group and PCS activist, Steven Jackson, described the seven former shipyard workers as “legends within the trade union movement” and believes their example will convince many other trade unionists to support an independent Scotland as the best vehicle possible for a fair and just society.
in an article published in the Daily Record the seven say
” As shipbuilders for most of our working lives, veterans of the Upper Clyde Shipbuilding work-in, and long-standing trades unionists, we want to make the case for why a Yes vote is the best choice for our shipyards and the future of our industry.
For over a century Scotland’s shipyard workers have been among the most skilled in the world, and the new Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier is further testament to our expertise. The UK Government is attempting to portray itself as the protector of shipbuilding in Scotland, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Despite the efforts of the trade union movement, shipbuilding has been neglected by Westminster governments, and there is a stronger, brighter future for our shipbuilding industry in an independent Scotland.
This is about the future: and after independence, Glasgow yards will continue to receive orders from the UK, because Portsmouth is not suitable for building key vessels, and even Westminster has admitted EU laws don’t stop the UK placing orders in Scotland after Yes.
Scotland’s shipyards will also need to build ships for the Scottish navy, and the Scottish Government’s immediate proposals are to procure four Type 26 frigates for the new Scottish navy, while in general defence procurement is increasingly a matter of international cooperation. Increasingly, governments are working together to procure ships jointly.
Last year the UK and Australia signed a new Defence Treaty that could ‘pave the way for the long-standing allies to join forces in constructing their next generation frigate’. If it’s good enough for Australia and the UK, why do the politicians at Westminster want to treat Scotland differently?
A Yes vote is the start of a great opportunity to expand the kind of ships built on the Clyde. Relying on BAE systems and the MoD alone is not a sustainable future for Scotland’s shipyards. One of the No campaign’s own spokespeople makes this point himself, when he says that ‘If we’re not going to build commercial ships, and all we’re going to build is defence frigates and aircraft carriers, then that’s what keeps us alive here’.
But there will be no more carriers from the UK and a much reduced warship programme, leading to job reductions and the consolidation of the Clyde Yards. We say: why can’t Scotland compete with other shipping centres, to build commercial ships?
The ambition to expand our shipbuilding and not just rely on the MoD will bring a new lease of life for our shipbuilding – which will also have a positive impact on surrounding areas, supply chains, and the industrial future of a neglected Scottish economy.
This is also about the history of the yards. For decades, decisions to close the yards were taken by doctrinaire Tory and Labour governments who disregarded the hopes of people who live here. In 1970 the workforce of these Glasgow shipyards faced the closure of their industry and destruction of their communities.
In 1979 Scottish shipbuilding employed around 35,000 people – but by 2012 there were less than 8,000, and the Westminster government aims to reduce jobs further from over 5,000 to 1,500. In short, it remains official Westminster policy to build ships abroad and close Scottish yards: in 2009 the Westminster government required that BAE systems close one or more of Scotstoun, Govan and Portsmouth.
It is now official UK policy to ‘build ships abroad’, since the 2005 defence White Paper reversed the policy of only building warships at home.
So, the great threat that looms over our shipbuilding industry is the threat from no change, from keeping on the same downward path with Westminster. We believe there can and must be a different way forward – but that depends on bringing economic power to Scotland.
Shipbuilding can be at the heart of an independent Scotland’s industry. The social and industrial importance of shipbuilding was promoted and defended by the UCS work-in, and will be promoted again – and with a Yes vote the difference will be that rather than decisions resting at Westminster, they will be in the hands of people and the government of Scotland, which would value the contribution of our industry to the economy of Scotland and would see a more diversified future for the shipyards and skilled workers of the Clyde.
Scotland is a world leader in offshore technologies and deep sea engineering, and that can translate into a brighter future for our shipyards too.
In an independent Scotland we will have the power to make the most of the opportunities of the future, building on our strengths, reindustrialising our nation, so that our shipyards have a strong future, and shipbuilders are guaranteed secure, fulfilling work.
This will happen when power to create the future is in the hands of those who can be trusted with it, the people who value the industry that has been at the heart of Glasgow for a century, the working people of Scotland themselves.
We are the people with the greatest stake in getting this right and that means we, rather than politicians at Westminster, will do the best job of growing Scotland’s shipbuilding sector.
There will be a sustainable shipbuilding future committed to by the Scottish Government.
David Torrance – UCS Coordinating Committee member,Chair, Draughtsman and Allied Technician Association, Fairfield
Linda Hamill – Shop Steward, Fairfield
Betty Kennedy – Telephone Supervisor (refused to disconnect phones when work-in began)
Jimmy Cloughley – UCS Coordinating Committee Member, Engineer Shop Steward, Fairfield
Ronnie Leighton – Convenor, Boilermakers, Linthouse
Tam Brotherston – Shop Steward, John Brown’s
John Gibb – Shop Steward, Fairfield