Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Decline of Shipbuilding in Scotland

Some lovely pictures of what used to be....

The most important thing to remember when reading this or when challenged by anyone who might say that cheap labour and resources in Asia was the root cause - tell them they don't know what they are talking about and quote the bold bits in this piece.

1913 was the Glasgow’s greatest year. It produced a third of the railway locomotives and a fifth of the steel manufactured anywhere in Britain. Most of all, it built ships. Big ships and many of them. At one point in the early twentieth century a fifth of all ships in the world were made on the River Clyde in Glasgow.

Glasgow and West Central Scotland became famous for their quality engineering products because the area was close to centres of iron manufacture in Airdrie, Coatbridge and Motherwell. Shipbuilding and engineering replaced the cotton industry, and whole towns of shipyard workers grew up. Clydebank did not exist in 1861, but by 1901 it was home to over 30,000 people. Between 1860 and 1870, more than 800,000 tons of iron ships were built on Clydeside, at huge shipyards laid out at Clydebank, Finnieston, Govan, Kelvinhaugh and Scotstoun.

About 24,000 of 47,500 men working in UK shipbuilding in 1871 were resident in Scotland, almost all employed on the Clyde yards.

By the 1880s shipbuilding had become the single most dominant industry, and it was now beginning to have an influence on the culture of Glasgow. It was becoming impossible to avoid the industry. It had such a dominant visual presence, with ships and shipyard cranes now looming over the city landscape; and the noise of riveting could be heard rattling right across the city.

A century ago the market of shipbuilding was dominated by Europe, having a world market share of some 80% at the beginning of the twentieth century. Scotland, along with other parts of the UK to be fair, had a dominant position at that time.

Clyde Shipbuilding reached its peak in the years just before WW1 and it is estimated that over 370 ships were completed in 1913.

The industry employed 60,000 workers as well as another 40,000 in ancillary trades that were dependent on the river for business. Glasgow was truly the 'Workshop of the British Empire' and dominated by the industrial behemoth of shipbuilding. But these years represented the Clyde at its historical peak, a position it would gradually lose throughout the 20th century. From then on things would never be the same again.

For various reasons, including the decrease of the European shipping fleet, lack of investment, poor labour relations and an inability to increase productivity levels, the UK dominance gradually eroded, partially being replaced by continental Europe and Scandinavia.

In the 1950s the position of Europe overall started being challenged by Japan, to be gradually taken over in the 70s, mainly due to a rapid growth of the Japanese economy and a coordinated shipping and shipbuilding program. Shipbuilding assumed the position of a strategic industry and new shipbuilding techniques were introduced that enhanced the Japanese productivity in shipbuilding. In the early 1970s Japan and Europe together still dominated the world market with a combined share of some 90%.

In the early 70s the position of Japan was in turn challenged by South Korea as they made a choice to position shipbuilding as a strategic industry for the country,

It is worth noting what else South Korea did as Scotland's decline in the steel industry is almost as scandalous. South Korean President Park Chung-hee's administration concluded that self-sufficiency in steel and the construction of an integrated steelworks were essential to economic development and the government owned steel business created at that time grew into the fourth largest in the world.

In ship building, just as Japan did before, a carefully planned industrial program was initiated starting with the construction of shipbuilding facilities by Hyundai and Daewoo, later followed by Samsung in the 1990s. In the mid-1990s the share of South Korea had increased to 25% and by 2005 it had overtaken the position of Japan measured in CGT deliveries. Other than Japan and Europe, South Korea focused from the start on the export market.

Even in the 70s we still had around 30,000 people directly employed as ship builders

We now have around 4,000 left and the future for the ship building industry (if it's still big enough to call it that) is bleak.

Alex Massie as usual does a very insightful detailed piece but ends with a weird conclusion because he is so blinded by the elite of the UK - how could an Independent Scotland possibly do any worse - The UK is not placing any focus on re-industrialising Scotland and the SNP has prepared a major paper about how they plan, if elected in 2016 to be the first government of an Independent Scotland, to do exactly that! Alex Massie needs to open his eyes to see the bigger picture.

Better Together want us to stay in the UK to protect 4,000 jobs building just 13 frigates over the next decade - hardly a sniff compared to 1913 -

Even recent history tells us they are talking absolute tosh -

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