Union in call for MoD to keep Scots steel plants open

The Dalzell works faces closure. Picture: Getty
The Dalzell works faces closure. Picture: Getty
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SCOTTISH ministers should launch a plan to win Ministry of Defence contracts to save two closure-threatened steel plants, the steelworkers’ union has said.

Tata Steel announced last week that it will cut 270 jobs at its Dalzell and Clydebridge plants, effectively ending steelmaking north of the Border.

John Park, of the Community union, told Scotland on Sunday the Scottish Government should engage with the MoD to try to get work for the two sites in Motherwell and Cambuslang.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has pledged to do “everything possible” to help find a buyer and has not ruled out the prospect of the Scottish Government taking over the sites.

Park said that the Scottish Government should launch an industrial strategy that would see the site bidding for defence contracts such as the Type 26 global combat ship orders that are due to placed by the MoD next year.

Park, assistant general secretary of Community, said the government could work with a new buyer and provide it with support to win such contracts to keep the Dalzell and Clydebridge plants open.

The union official said that the workforce had the necessary expertise and skills to take on defence work, which he claimed could secure the future of both sites.

Park, a former Labour MSP, said: “The Scottish Government could work with a new operator and the UK Ministry of Defence to ensure the Scottish steel industry can make the most of these opportunities.

“In the long term, the Scottish Government must develop an active industrial strategy which provides the procurement opportunities and the investment necessary for Dalzell and Clydebridge to produce the high-end, quality steel products on which the future of the UK’s whole steel industry will surely be built.”

Park revealed that Community has already opened talks with trade unions working in the defence sector about the prospect of the Scottish plants taking on work for the Ministry of Defence.

Meanwhile, the Scottish billionaire Jim McColl has ruled out taking over the country’s last steelworks.

The businessman stepped in to keep commercial shipbuilding alive in Scotland when he saved Ferguson shipyard in Port Glasgow last year.

McColl, 63, has set out plans to expand the business with a number of large contracts already secured.

Yesterday he said he does not think the steel industry can be saved by a “smaller entrepreneurial approach”.

“The short answer is no. We’ve got quite a lot on our plate just now. We’ve invested in the shipbuilding business and there’s a lot of activity going on there just now.

“I haven’t been approached by the Scottish Government at all,” he added.