Goodbye Motorola: The phone giant’s Bathgate plant remembered

A protester outside the Bathgate plant in 1998.
A protester outside the Bathgate plant in 1998.
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AS Smartphone manufacturer Lenovo announces it is to ditch the iconic Motorolo brand name, we look back at the company’s ill-fated Bathgate factory that closed nearly 15 years ago - leaving thousands of Scots unemployed.

The twentieth century saw a dramatic change in work for people living in West Lothian.

A man working on the production line in the Assembly Area of Motorola.

A man working on the production line in the Assembly Area of Motorola.

Still bruised from the decline of heavy industry suffered by the area in the 1960s, Bathgate benefitted from the coming of the “Silicon Glen” of the 1990s with large scale investments along the M8 corridor.

In 1992, the American company Motorola opened a phone manufacturing plant at Easter Inch in Bathgate.

Despite employing over 3,000 workers from the local area, for some it was hard to adjust to the American way of doing things.

One worker recalls: “Ah worked in Motorola... ah didnae like it at all. It was too rigid. If ye went to the toilet, they checked how long you were away.

MOTOROLA Factory, Bathgate 1992.

MOTOROLA Factory, Bathgate 1992.

“It was an American company for a start and they went by the rules. For instance if you smoked, you couldnae smoke in the car park... you had to go and smoke in your car.”

The plant, which at its peak employed 3100 workers, suffered when the global market for mobile phones dramatically fell and was closed down in 2001 - nearly ten years after it opened.

Workers were told of the news at a series of morning meetings.

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Motorola on the scrapheap following the factory's closure

Motorola on the scrapheap following the factory's closure

Prime Minister at that time Tony Blair, who had intervened in an effort to save the plant, described the news as a “bitter blow” and Robin Cook, then the UK’s foreign secretary, accused the company of creating a “human tragedy”.

Headlines from tabloid newspapers included RIP Bathgate and Massacre at Motorola.

Wages in the area fell after Motorola left, and they remain eight per cent lower than the UK average to this day.

The Pyramids Business Park now sits where the factory once stood.

Main visitor area at Motorola - Bathgate.

Main visitor area at Motorola - Bathgate.

The ex-Motorola factory at Bathgate is now the Pyramids Business Park.

The ex-Motorola factory at Bathgate is now the Pyramids Business Park.