Socialist Worker

Scottish shipyard workers don't swallow the lie that independence will cost jobs

by Dave Sherry
Issue No. 2418

The “Better Together” campaign is trying to blackmail shipyard workers into voting no to Scottish independence.

Glasgow Labour MP Ian Davidson, who is sponsored by the Unite trade union, has threatened that a Yes vote will end shipbuilding on Clydeside.

The Tories have made similar threats. They are all based on lies.

One worker at the Govan site told Socialist Worker, “The idea that British governments protect shipyard jobs couldn’t be further from the truth.

“Shipyard workers have been sold down the river by successive Westminster governments as long as I’ve worked in the yards.

“In 1979 Scottish shipbuilding employed 35,000 workers. By 1993 the numbers had fallen to 11,000 and by 2012 there were less than 8,000 of us.”

BAE owns the two remaining yards in Glasgow—Govan and Scotstoun. It has slashed jobs, and workers fear more could follow.

“There are strong rumours that a report has been prepared for the UK government,” explained the worker.

“It argues the BAE workforce on the Clyde should be reduced to a maximum of 1,500 and that Govan will be closed.


"Production would be concentrated at a revamped Scotstoun, with big changes to pay, hours and working conditions.

“Building ships abroad and closing shipyards is official Westminster policy. Most young apprentices on the Clyde who were taken on and trained by BAE under union pressure have either emigrated or left to work elsewhere.

“Sadly we are becoming an ageing workforce.”

British governments have made and broken various promises on boosting work at the shipyards. 

Workers don’t believe that any government, Labour or Tory, will protect shipbuilding jobs while committed to austerity. They hope the independence campaign can boost other struggles.

The shipyard worker said, “Ferguson’s commercial shipyard at Port Glasgow has just collapsed into administration. First minister Alex Salmond has visited the site, claiming the Scottish government will do everything it can to help save the yard and the jobs.

“These promises are fine. But the grassroots movement that has powered the growing demand for independence has the power to hold politicians to account.

“It could force a future Scottish government to save the jobs by renationalising the yard—if that’s what it takes.

“And that movement has the potential to force any future Scottish government to diversify Scottish shipbuilding. This could create more skilled jobs.

“We shouldn’t be bullied into voting no.”

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