We must work as one to save Clydebridge
This week the new Scottish Steel Task Force that was announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, and headed up by Business Minister Fergus Ewing, will meet for the first time.
The task force represents a broad spectrum of society, with Scottish Government, local authorities, public sector, trade unions and local politicians all on board.
There are people of various political persuasions, and those of none.
I am delighted to be a member of the force, and work towards a positive outcome.
It goes without saying, a lot of jobs are reliant upon the success of the task force and it is crucial that we all work together to make it a success.
Now is not the time for political point scoring, but for real combined action.
The priority is finding a buyer who will continue with commercial production.
We simply cannot allow these specialist skills to disappear from Scotland. We really must all work together if we are to save this industry, and prevent hundreds of job losses in the run up to Christmas.
The problems facing the steel industry in Scotland are the same as those elsewhere in the UK.
One issue that I hope will be addressed by the task force is that of procurement, and explore if more can be done to procure steel for public projects from Scotland and the rest of the UK.
It would be disingenuous of me to present this as the solution to the industry’s problems though.
Whilst forming part of the solution, procurement is a small piece of a larger puzzle, and there are much bigger issues to address if the industry is to remain viable in the long term.
The two biggest problems facing British steel are high energy costs, and the dumping of cheap Chinese steel on the European market.
Unless these matter are addressed, the industry looks unlikely to have a future, regardless of how many public contracts are awarded.
The UK Government’s reaction to both of these issues has regrettably been severely inadequate to date.
The steel industry has repeatedly warned that it is being crippled, and has been pleading for help.
As a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Steel, I’ve witnessed first-hand how the slow reaction of the UK Government has led us to where we are now, and how the many warnings from industry experts have not been heeded.
I hope to see the UK Government step up to the mark, and take action now to bring forward help for all those industries with high energy costs.
The Scottish Government also need to be represented at EU talks to address the problem of dumping, and I will be pushing David Cameron to ask for that to happen.
Saving Scottish steel will not be easy, but we must now rise to the challenge and explore every possible option so that we can reach our shared aim.
We must not give up on the steel industry and the highly skilled workers in their hour of need.
All quiet Clydebridge is set to close