Veterans of Upper-Clyde work-in back Yes vote

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  By Martin Kelly
 
Seven key figures involved in the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders work-in in the seventies have publicly backed a Yes vote in the independence referendum.
 
The seven, who alongside the late Jimmy Reid were key to the success of the work-in, said independence offers a “stronger, brighter future” for Scotland’s shipbuilding industry.

In a letter published in the Daily Record, they highlighted Westminster’s legacy of job losses and yard closures over the last thirty years.

Signed by David Torrance, Linda Hamill, Betty Kennedy, Jimmy Cloughley, Ronnie Leighton, Tam Brotherston and John Gibb, the letter – entitled ‘To the shipbuilders of Scotland, and workers in related industries,’ says:

“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.”

Highlighting the historic skills of Scottish Shipyard workers, the letter adds: “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.”

The seven point to the loss of jobs in shipbuilding under the Westminster system. “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.” they write.

Addressing claims from Unionists that a Yes vote will mean the loss of naval contracts, the seven say: “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.”

The letter highlights the need for a newly independent Scotland to build its own ships: “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,”

The letter also points to international co-operation currently underway between the UK Government and other nations to build Type 26 frigates: “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?”

The group also point out that relying solely on naval contracts is not enough to sustain the long term future of the Yards.

They add: “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.”

The letter concludes: “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.”

The letter follows on from recent warnings that Westminster’s decision to renew Trident will lead to a squeeze in spending on other defence projects – which the Scottish Government says will put even more Scottish shipbuilding jobs at risk.

Commenting, SNP MSP Sandra White said:

“Glasgow’s shipbuilding industry has always had a special place in our city’s heart – and the Upper Clyde Shipyard work-in was an iconic moment for people across Glasgow, Scotland and far beyond. 

“That these key figures from the work-in are backing independence is a real boost for the Yes campaign – and shows the No camp’s claims on shipbuilding are just more of the usual Project Fear scaremongering.

“The fact is that Westminster’s management of our shipyards has guaranteed nothing except managed decline – with job losses and yard closures decimating the industry.

“In 1972 there were 34,000 jobs in shipbuilding in Scotland – whereas in 2012 there were only 6,000.  Successive UK Governments have let down the industry – and Westminster’s obsession with spending tens of billions on Trident is only going to make matters worse.

“A Yes vote offers the chance to take a different path – using the powers of independence to support and develop one of our key industries and protecting jobs from Westminster’s cuts agenda.

“The fact is that the expertise and experience of our workforce mean Scottish shipyards are the best place to build the next generation of ships – and our shipbuilding industry has a bright future after a Yes vote.”