SPEAKING as a 71-year-old SNP voter, it strikes me there are too many folk in Scotland now with shorter memories than mine.

I was raised in Port Glasgow and saw what the organisation known as Scottish Labour did to shipbuilding in Inverclyde, killing off most of the industry by persuading folks to vote for a London-based Labour Party hell-bent on UK-wide nationalisation. I worked at Ravenscraig in Motherwell for a few years prior to nationalisation of the UK steel industry in 1967 and it was a disaster for Scotland.

Colvilles Ltd had been the predominant steelmaker in Scotland and had been very effective in rationalising the industry here through acquisition and modernisation. They were highly regarded worldwide and were a key supplier to the shipyards on the Clyde and in Belfast. While the Macmillan government had helped Colvilles diversify into strip steel for automotive use, I believe their long-term thinking was that shipbuilding plates would be their core business.

Loading article content

However, the post-war period saw the complete restructuring of Japan’s steel manufacturing capacity and new plants there were located on reclaimed coastal land. Blast furnaces were constructed on a scale hitherto thought unworkable (up to five times bigger than furnaces then existing in Britain) and these required vast amounts of ore and coal to be imported.

Land was allocated for the building of the biggest bulk carriers operationally viable, and usually the yards would be very close to the steel mills.

Colvilles had an answer. Their future lay at Hunterston in Ayrshire, where 40 metres of draft could allow cargoes 10 times bigger than anything discharged at Glasgow. The land was acquired and plans developed for a new integrated iron and steel production site. As well as being able to accommodate the world’s biggest cargo ships, the unloading jetty was designed with an inner loading berth that would allow deliveries of steel products by coastal ships at world competitive prices.

Unlike the industry in Scotland that had been modernised by Colvilles, iron and steelmaking in the north-east of England was relatively antiquated and needed rationalisation and major investment.

After nationalisation, Redcar was developed as the major coastal site for ironmaking. Hunterston proceeded only as a raw material discharge port and stockyard. Colvilles’ grand plan for integrated steelmaking there was ditched. If Colvilles had been allowed to create at Hunterston what would have been probably the most cost-effective steelmaking site in Europe, I dare say the future of our shipbuilding and industry generally would have been much enhanced.

And so to the present day. The organisation known as Scottish Labour continues to seek our votes to support the election of a London-based Labour Party, at a time when ideologues are again promoting nationalisation.

It strikes me that any UK-wide nationalisation of just about any industry will not be to Scotland’s advantage. The Labour Party mantra could well be “For the many votes in England, not the few in Scotland”. Nationalisation here can only work if controlled for Scotland by Scotland.

I voted Labour once upon a time, and might do so again if the organisation known as Scottish Labour had genuine Scottish roots. If its supporters truly want a socialist revolution, then they must support independence in order to have industries and services like mail and transport that are nationalised for the benefit of the Scottish many.

Beware the organisation known as Scottish Labour. Voting for them presently would be potentially harmful to Scotland’s economic welfare.

Alan Adair Parker
Blairgowrie