The untapped resources of the North Sea are as nothing to the untapped resource of our people” said the legendary Jimmy Reid in his address, when installed as Glasgow University Rector in 1972. It was described by the New York Times as the finest since Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address.
But unleashing our people’s talents can only happen if there’s work for them to do and contracts are given to Scottish businesses. The tragedy is that there’s plenty work to be done in Scotland and not just in the North Sea. Cal Mac’s ferry fleet around our coast and islands is ageing, and sadly’ s floundering.
Entire communities have been cast adrift, as ship after ship has broken down. Almost on a weekly basis. They need replaced and fast to allow all our communities to participate in our country’s life not just those in the central belt. Just as importantly allowing them to recover following the pandemic that’s hit hard in every corner of our land.
At the same time there’s a yard on the Clyde – Ferguson Marine- that has the skills and facilities to build them. Its long way since even the difficult days of UCS when yards were hammering out ships the length and breadth of the Clyde and on other rivers and sites in Scotland. My own family worked in the east coast yards.
The industry has been in decline for years through mismanagement, as much as foreign competition. But Fergusons has hung on and has the skills not only to build these ships but many more in years to come. That would also allow for a revival in other yards as orders grew.
It’s not rocket science to join the dots and give the ferry orders to the Scottish Yard. That’s why the Scottish Governments decision to give orders for two Cal Mac ferries to yards abroad, and not place them at Ferguson Marine, is truly shameful. Jimmy Reid and the other greats of UCS and Scottish shipbuilding must be birling in their graves. This isn’t the actions of Ted Heath and the English Tories but of Nicola Sturgeon and her Scottish Government.
For make no mistake this shameful decision was welded together by the Scottish Government both with the decision and past actions. CMAL who order the ships are appointed by them and the decision was signed off by Ministers. The Board should be sacked, and Ministers must consider their position, as blames firmly anchored with them.
When Jimmy Reid gave his oration, he was envisaging a Scotland where yards still made ships. Not just Scottish ships but for the seas around the globe, as we’d done for generations. Also, that they would be benefitting from the oil off our shores. Sadly, Scotland was robbed of most of the benefit from oil and gas. It can though still benefit from renewable energy that offers as much, if not more. But work and contracts must be given.
I wrote a biography of Jimmy that traced his political journey from Communist to Labour and then to SNP. Jimmy left Tony Blairs New Labour, as it was a shadow of the Labour Movement that he was forged in. He supported Scottish Independence but if he were alive today, if he hadn’t already left New SNP, he certainly would over this.