Time to stand up for Scottish steel

James-KellyJames Kelly, Labour MSP for Rutherglen and Scottish Labour’s Business Manager in the Shadow Cabinet, calls for action to help save Scottish steel-making.


The announcement by Tata Steel of the mothballing of Clydebridge and Dalzell has come as a hammer blow to the workforce.

Our immediate thoughts are with the workers and their families and the uncertainty that this announcement creates. We can only wonder at the turmoil this has created in their lives. There is also the knock-on effect on local businesses that benefit from jobs at Clydebridge and Dalzell.

The Clydebridge plant in my constituency has been in existence since 1877, and steel has been a big factor in the local area. I remember as a youngster growing up in Halfway with the local Hallside steelworks dominating the area. The factory alarm used to sound out across the streets signalling the start and end of each shift.

So the fight to retain steel production at Clydebridge is not only about those who work there, but it is also about the need to keep the tradition of steel-making alive in this community. And what is needed now is action not words. I welcome the Scottish government setting up a local task force. However, this needs to provide clear leadership.

I have written to the UK Prime Minister and Scottish First Minister asking for action on a number of fronts.

Firstly, we need intervention from the UK and Scottish Governments to secure the plants. The Scottish Government intervened to save Prestwick because of its importance to the Ayrshire economy. I believe a similar intervention is needed at Clydebridge and Dalzell to save the iconic Scottish steel industry which is so important to the Lanarkshire and Scottish economy.

Secondly, all Scottish infrastructure projects should be buying their steel from Dalzell and Clydebridge. The new Forth Road Bridge used 37,000 tonnes of steel yet hardly any of it was forged in Scotland. More than half was made in Shanghai with most of the rest coming from Seville and Gdansk. I am aware that there are European rules on contracts but the Scottish Government needs to be more visionary in how it runs the bidding process.

At the SNP party conference, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance John Swinney announced a £170m rail project between Aberdeen and Inverness. The steel needed for these tracks should be purchased in Scotland to help save the jobs of our local workers.

Thirdly, the Scottish Government needs to take the lead to in helping Tata Steel reduce the running costs at Clydebridge. One of problems Tata face is significantly higher energy costs than European and global competitors. The Scottish Government should be using its leverage with Scottish Power and SSE to reduce these bills and help keep the plant going.

So these are difficult times for the workforce. This is a time for both governments to provide leadership. A taskforce is fine, but it must not become a talking shop. People’s jobs and livelihoods are at stake.

The workforce at Clydebridge and Dalzell are highly trained and we cannot afford to lose the skills and experience which has developed over the decades.

The traditions and the history of steel-making in the community must not be allowed to sink. Time to act – time to stand up for Scottish steel.

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12 thoughts on “Time to stand up for Scottish steel

  1. Hi James,

    ” I welcome the Scottish government setting up a local task force. However, this needs to provide clear leadership.”

    Can you please explain exactly what you mean by the above in otherwards what sure you getting at?

  2. Hi James:

    What happened to the Cleveland Bridge contract that was going to source steel for the viaduct support girders from Dalzell? Did that fall through?

    Best Regards,

  3. This article is gesture politics of the kind we’ve come to expect from Labour.

    Firtly, the steel industry is not a stand alone enterprise like an airport. It would require govt investment of, perhaps, £bns to make the Scottish steel industry self supporting. That is a legacy of the way the UK industry has sacrificed Scottish plants in favour of those further South. If the Scottish govt were to spend all this money on purchasing and investing in a nationalised steel industry, these same Labour politicians would waste no time in criticising them for it.

    Secondly, the Scottish (nor the UK) govt is not allowed to just hand contracts to businesses. They are legally required to go out to tender with strict guidelines on how the final decision is arrived at. To suggest otherwise is, at best, naive. However, I’m sure Mr Kelly is well aware of this. You can be sure he and his Labour colleagues would relish the legal stramash a move such he suggests would create for the Scottish govt.

    Thirdly, what “leverage” with the power companies? This is pure fantasy on Mr Kelly’s part. “Perception politics” as a recent contributor to this site ironicaly derided the Scottish govt for. Mr Kelly wishes to give the perception of some SNP-BAD tyrannical govt, with the power to force private companies to set particular prices, but that is heartless enough not to use this “power” for the good of the steel workers. Utter nonsense on his part.

    What Mr Kelly has laid bare here is the complete lack of any credible ideas within the Labour party to address the plight of what is left of the Scottish steel industry. An industry over whose demise successive UK govts have presided. If any of Mr Kelly’s suggestions were plausible, why didn’t the Blair/Brown UK Labour govts implement them as thousands of Scottish steel jobs went South?

  4. To add to Me Bungo Pony, one reason why Scottish (and UK) firms didn’t get more of the work is that the didn’t bid for it. Jim well knows that neither Clydebridge nor Dalzell have the capability to produce the type and quantity of steel required. This is just politicking of the worst kind, trying to make capital out of the misery of the steelworkers.

    1. Except Tata *did* bid for a significant proportion of the work, as part of an overall bid which lost on cost grounds. The Scottish government could have put a community benefit clause into the contract which could have ensured work for Dalzell, but they chose not to.

      1. Which of the two Scottish plants would have produced this steel? What proportion of the 37,000 tonnes would have been produced in Scotland?

        1. As I said, Dalzell, and they say they could have produced 30% of it. Are you prepared to apologise for your false statement that they didn’t have the capability to produce what was required?

          1. 30% is not 100% and is, de facto, 70% less than was required.

            Not sure of this “Community benefit clause”. If it is such a slam dunker, why is it not included in every govt contract? I’ve a feeling things are not as clear cut as Mr Hothersall would have us believe.

  5. Dalzell is a finishing mill, so raw steel would have to have come from somewhere else. Your figure of 30% is, at least, an exaggeration.

    1. Of course raw steel would have to come from somewhere else. Why are you so desperate to write off the possibility of Scottish workers being part of this?

      Nah, don’t bother answering, I know. What a pathetic state our politics has reached, where those who claim to be the most fervent Scots are so completely focused on grievance rather than success.

      1. What success Mr Hothersall? The Scottish steel industry is a pale and tiny shadow of its former self. Scottish steelworkers have had to stand by powerless while their jobs were relocated South. Scottish local authorities were forbidden to offer incentives to keep the work in their areas as Westminster has decreed that the “regions” of the UK cannot compete with each other, giving those further South an inate advantage over Scotland.

        The Scottish steel industry is NOT a success Mr Hothersall and has not been for several decades. UK govt policy has seen to that and the Labour party did nothing to help it, despite a near hegemony in Scotland, at local and national level (“one party state” anyone), and years in govt at Westminster.

        Tata’s bid, such as it was, did not win because it failed the tendering process as laid out in law. It is highly unlikely it would have made any difference to the current position anyway. It is the international market that is the problem, not the local one.

        If all you can offer the remaining steel workers in Scotland is “what might have been if reality was different” dressed up as “fact” then you are abandoning them in favour of yet another SNP-bad, “perception politics”, populist bid to make Labour relevant again. It is a sad route to take.

  6. Any casual onlooker must be wondering why all sides in British politics have allowed themselves to be ensnared in EU laws to such an extent that British steel companies cannot supply British infrastructure projects. And why successive administrations haven’t done more to nurture and protect our strategic industries.
    I’m not sure either how Scottish Power can be “leveraged” when it’s controlled by shareholders in Spain – another example of the national stupidity that has swept Britain.
    Even now we seem desperate to give away our golden opportunities in renewables – especially wind farm development and operation – to insatiable foreign corporates. The whole scene is sick.

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