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Shipbuilding union heroes endorse Scottish independence

A NUMBER of heroes from the 1971 Upper Clyde Shipbuilders’ work-in have endorsed the “Yes” vote despite fears that independence would doom Scotland’s shipyards.

The seven surviving trade unionists pinned their colours to the mast yesterday in an open letter to the Daily Record, saying the “much reduced” prospect of warship contracts was an opportunity to produce cargo carriers and ocean liners instead.

The Unite union which represents shipbuilders has been a vocal critic of the independence campaign, with BAE Systems Scotstoun convenor Duncan Mcphee suggesting they would “lose their only customer” — the Ministry of Defence.

“It is hard to see any future for the Scottish shipyards if they lose their only customer and there are no credible alternative ships to be ordered,” Mr McPhee said in a statement via the pro-independence Better Together campaign.

“There is no prospect for export orders, so the only potential customer would be the Scottish government, which has not indicated if it would order any ships to be constructed for a potential Scottish Navy,” he said.

But Jimmy Cloughley of the Upper Clyde dispute’s co-ordinating committee said freeing the industry from military contracts would be a boon.

“The industry deserves more than being tied to BAE Systems, who will only build ships of war.

“When we have power to direct our industries as we did in the UCS, the shipyards on the Clyde will have a more fulfilling future if there is a policy of diversification and commercial shipbuilding,” he said.

Fellow signee Betty Kennedy — who as switchboard supervisor refused to unplug the phones when the work-in began — said it was obvious that work in the shipyards would continue.

“It’s the workers who guarantee that shipbuilding will thrive when we are independent, and who should get the respect they deserve rather than these job-threats from Westminster,” she said.

The Upper Clyde Shipbuilders’ work-in marked a watershed moment for Scotland’s trade unions, when shop steward Jimmy Reid led a battle against the then-Heath government as the firm went into receivership.

The PM had famously said he was willing to let up to 6,000 workers lose their jobs rather than subsidise a “lame duck” industry.

But the union fought on with a “work-in” to complete existing orders that ultimately forced a Tory U-turn.


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