As the Grangemouth refinery lay cold, the inactive towers cast a shadow across all Scotland. In a throwback to the 1980s, the future of one of the last remaining Scottish industrial icons was under threat.
In contrast to the past, when the dark days of industrial decline were met with grim resignation, there was no sense of inevitability with Grangemouth. The idea that a crucial part of our industrial infrastructure would simply be allowed to close, or that there was no profitable future in petrochemicals, was not to be accepted.
Both the Scottish and UK Governments insisted there was a future for Grangemouth, though the different levels of importance which Grangemouth merited was stark. While the new Secretary of State for Scotland Alistair Carmichael made positive noises, there was to be no mention of Grangemouth at Prime Minister’s Questions, the centrepiece of the Westminster week, and David Cameron was noticeably absent from the chamber when an emergency question was raised later in the day. While the dispute escalated, there was little mention in the UK press until the threat of closure could no longer be ignored. What was an absolutely crucial moment for the future of the Scottish economy was barely registering within the London political class.
A last-minute deal between the workers and the plant owners Ineos has guaranteed a future for Grangemouth. A future for the plant is a good thing, albeit a future that has been secured by demonstrating the power of the ultra-rich to control the lives of the rest of us. While countless column inches will be filled with analysis – and Robin McAlpine’s take is certainly worth a read – few will capture the moment as well as National Collective’s own Greg Moodie.
There is something wrong when one man has such power to use with reckless abandon.
Jimmy Reid famously spoke of the alienation of working people in their own society, saying that:
It is the cry of men who feel themselves the victims of blind economic forces beyond their control. It’s the frustration of ordinary people excluded from the processes of decision making. The feeling of despair and hopelessness that pervades people who feel with justification that they have no real say in shaping or determining their own destinies.”
In the shadow of Grangemouth, we are all frustrated, excluded and at the mercy of blind economic forces. But we are not hopeless.
We are not hopeless.