ANOTHER good economic news story, with a sense of forward motion restored: this week’s reopening of the historic Dalzell steelworks in Motherwell.

A certain generation, for whom the brutal closure of the town’s massive Ravenscraig plant was part of their politicisation, will feel quite a deep tug.

The launch, and the context, is oh-so-2016. With a red dot on her head, Nicola Sturgeon joined in an Indian blessing with the new owners of the plant (Liberty Steel was founded in 1992 by Sanjeev Gupta, while he was a Cambridge student). A steel pellet sculpture of Ganesha, the Hindu god of beginnings, was part of the ceremony.

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Most informed observers of Scottish economic progress would have been delighted to hear these words from Mr Gupta: “There is a lot of passion full stop in Scotland. This is one of the reasons that will drive us to do a lot more in Scotland. Things happen and happen quickly here.”

Small, smart, cohesive nations are supposed to have this competitive and strategic advantage. That is, they are able to get stakeholders round a table and respond with agility to crises and opportunities. In that sense, no matter our constitutional end-point, this is steady and solid advance.

But also in small countries like ours, there are always other dimensions to these leading news stories. For example, the way that personal connections to something like steelmaking are so easily mapped. And how that steelmaking connects up to the collective story of a nation still restless about its priorities and direction.

Steel and iron, I realise over a few minutes reflection, constitutes me. My grandfather Pat Kane was a blacksmith in my home town of Coatbridge – itself the “Iron Burgh” of Scotland, producing pig iron pellets through the 19th and 20th centuries. He could straighten lampposts with his arms (on request), made shoes for horses and railings for the council, and has bequeathed to us – though I never met him – a smoothly and beautifully forged shoelast, hammered out from his own forge.

His metallurgical skills skipped two generations and went straight into my eldest. She’s a hands-on design engineer who took a welding class in Edinburgh a few years ago, and found herself in a room full of developers from Rock Star North, the creators of the Grand Theft Auto computer game series. Why them? These successful young dudes wanted to do their own repairs on their own Italian musclecars.

Rock’n’roll has always harboured refugees from the industrial life.

Hue And Cry’s backing vocalist in the 1980s, David Preston, hailed from Craigneuk, in Wishaw. His house looked across to the infernal skyline of Ravenscraig. Davie could sing Paul Rodgers into a tartan bunnet. He was also able to smoke (and steam) even more alarmingly than the vast integrated plant itself.

However, Davie once assured me – as we lounged around on a boulevard in Nice – that “nothing and no-one could ever get me into that place. Why do you think I’m sitting out here?”.

Davie can now safely return to the Ravenscraig site, without fear of a shift at the coke ovens crimping his blond quiff – and could maybe even get a gig. The New College Lanarkshire now operates on the plant’s reclaimed ground. It sports an extremely vibrant performing arts course (disclaimer: my brother’s partner is a lecturer there).

Helicopter shots looking down over the old site don’t show too much additional activity beyond this. There’s a pub, a sports centre, some housing (with the Dalzell operation to one side). There is also a dramatic statue by the Kelpies sculptor Andy Scott, The Steelman, commemorating the hundreds that died in the steelmaking process at the plant.

But what is most striking is just ... the greenery. Through both design and natural growth, a quiet dominion of grass, bushes and pathways now reigns, where the mighty twin towers and cavernous production-line sheds of Ravenscraig once stood. All of it is vacant space for further development, no doubt. But for the moment, it’s a striking and provocative metaphor.

What is the balance to be struck between a planet-friendly Scotland and a productive Scotland? How does the revival of steelmaking in Scotland help us strike it? These are questions with both immediate, and ancient, answers.

Liberty Steel’s own proclaimed agenda is for “GREEN STEEL (their capitals) ... using renewable energy to melt the readily available supply of scrap steel in Britain”. This vision, says the blurb, “is counter to the current UK Steel Industry that relies on the import of iron ore and coal from far-flung corners of the globe.”

There are a whole pile of issues underlying this rosy view of green steel production. At Ravenscraig, a grassy knoll called “Prospect Hill” is actually a secure containment facility, filled with one million cubic metres of toxic waste, sitting not too far from the housing estates.

Although iron and steel are the world’s most recycled products (construction steel in the UK is 95 per cent recycled), its production processes – particularly the coke ovens – release naphthalene, ammonium compounds, crude light oil, sulphur and coke dust into the air. Making iron and steel accounts for 6.5 per cent of global CO2 emissions.

Those Ravenscraig gardeners who remember their rose petals fringed with dark dust will tell you that they knew all about the environmental and health downsides of a “steelopolis”.

Yet as my grandfather would have told you, along with millennia of blacksmiths before him, the forging of iron and steel has propelled industry, agriculture, infrastructure and outright war. It is the blackened and sharpened edge of the human project. We’ve been dealing with its downsides for thousands of years.

Steel is a material that seems elemental to human needs and social orders. As a method, steel and iron-making emerged across widely disconnected continents and eras (and was understood as alchemy for most of its existence).

We may like to think we live in a primarily digital age – but steel truly holds the world together. And does so in almost every direction.

The Dalzell plant says it aims to provide sheet metal for both the rotor blades of wind turbines – and the reactor panels for Hinkley B’s nuclear power station. Virtue or vice, steel enables it.

So the return of steelmaking is, to my mind, more than an encouraging sign that Scotland’s industrial economy can still engage with the world, in highly demanding times. It’s actually more than a little mythic.

The word “steel” comes from the Proto-German term stakhla, meaning “standing firm”. My favourite Greek mythological character (apart from Proteus) is Hephaestus, the blacksmith of the gods. His metal-making created “beautiful assistants for his smithy”, says Wikipedia, and “metal fishing nets of extraordinary intricacy”.

Standing firm, automation and intricate design are not the worst connotations for a primary industry to summon up in the minds of citizens. Scottish steel may well presage even more skilful national interventions in the affairs of the world.

So no surprise that part of the re-opening ceremony at the Dalzell plant involved a brace of dutiful politicians, paying obesiance to the first glowing slabs of steel rumbling down the rollers. The restoration of power it implies, at an elemental level, is obvious.