Campaigners in Torry are still waiting on the Scottish Government announcement that was expected back in January. Each month it has been put back another 28 days and is now due on 6th May. If the government gives the go ahead to the current plans for the ETZ (Energy Transition Zone) it will be a decisive step down a road that panders to the oil and gas industry and has nothing to with social justice. St Fitticks Park, which the plans would take over for industrial use, is the only green space in a working class area that suffered from decades of pollution as a result of the oil and gas industry. Most recently a new Energy from Waste incinerator, built close to a primary school, has led to a further deterioration in living conditions.
This film from REELNews highlights the issues involved and the resistance of the local community. Please share it widely.
In the film it’s noted that it’s not clear what use the new industrial zone will be put to. However, since the film was made campaigners have found evidence that there will be a large hydrogen storage facility – with 80% blue hydrogen and 20% green – that will be used to convert the cooking and heating supply for 20,000 social housing tenants in Aberdeen. If this goes ahead not only will Torry lose it’s green space many of its residents will be locked in to a very expensive energy future.
St Fitticks deserves to be a national campaign. The issues it raises around social justice, the use of hydrogen and carbon capture are national issues and they expose the weaknesses and contradictions in Scottish Government Energy Policy.
Share this post – support the St Fitticks campaigners.
Read more detail and watch video from the campaign here and here.
Mike Downham explains why the fight to save St Fitticks Park is so important.
As I write this (on 22nd September) the Scottish Government Reporter has announced her decision to confirm zoning changes in the Aberdeen Local Development Plan which would allow St. Fittick’s Park to be industrialised.
St. Fittick’s Park
The 17-acre St. Fittick’s Park is owned by Aberdeen City Council and currently zoned as Greenbelt and part of the Greenspace Network. For centuries the land had been grazed by farm animals, until the 1960s when it became a rough field, much explored by children and known affectionately by the local community of Torry as “Our Fieldie”. The East Tullos burn which crosses the land had been channelised and over time became polluted with heavy metals and hydrocarbons.
About 20 years ago the Torry community came together to create a nature-based vision for a public park, with access paths and play equipment for children. £250,000 was raised to realise this vision, £168,000 by the community, with Aberdeen Council contributing the remainder. The new park was named St. Fittick’s because it includes a ruined church overlooking the North Sea at Nigg Bay. From here you can look across fields to the edge of Torry, and wonder how different this landscape must have looked when, according to legend, a religious foundation was established here by St Fittick in the mid 600s.
The story runs that St Fittick, an Irish monk, was thrown overboard by superstitious sailors when a storm blew up. He came ashore at Nigg Bay and established a church to give thanks for his salvation. Legend became history in the late 1100s when a chapel was built on the site of today’s ruins, under the auspices of Arbroath Abbey. This chapel was consecrated in 1242 by the Bishop of St Andrews David de Bernham, and continued to serve the local community until the Reformation.
In 2012 Aberdeen City Council carried out a city-wide greenspace assessment and identified St. Fittick’s Park as a priority for nature-based improvements. The Council commissioned a feasibility study for a project with three objectives: 1) Improve water quality of East Tullos Burn, 2) Improve
biodiversity and 3) Create a public amenity. Combining Aberdeen City Council funds with funds from SEPA, Aberdeen Greenspace, and others, £365,000 was spent to complete the project in 2014. Using a nature-based design, the burn was naturalised with meanders and aquatic and riparian vegetation and reedbeds and wetlands were added to provide habitat and help clean the water of pollution. The project installed 180,000 native wetland and wildflower plants, 20,000 square metres of wildflower seeding, extensive woodland planting on the adjacent upland slopes and 800m of access paths. The community got to work, in one day alone planting 10,000 trees.
The biodiversity and aesthetic beauty of the Park have significantly improved year on year over the last ten years. The Park is now well used and well loved, with school children, families and seasoned or budding naturalists enjoying this rich and diverse landscape. Many species of birds, amphibians, invertebrates and mammals are observed and studied.
This summer an MSc graduate of Aberdeen University carried out an aquatic biodiversity and water quality study of East Tullos Burn and found statistically and biologically significant improvements in the burn as a result of the restoration project, notably an increase in species abundance and richness, an increase in the dynamics and complexity of the food web, and improvements in water quality. Additional studies have found an explosion in biodiversity since the restoration was completed, including 115 plant species, 42 breeding bird species, including eight red listed and eight amber listed, and dozens of migratory species. Invertebrate surveys found over forty species of moth, 11 butterfly species, and a range of other invertebrates. Two invertebrates found on survey were nationally threatened species.
The Torry Community
St. Fittick’s Park is the last remaining accessible green space for a community of 10,000 people, in an area unfairly burdened by pollution, where few residents have private gardens. Before the advent of the Oil and Gas Industry, Torry was a centre for fishing, fish-processing, boat building and boat repair. Only the fish-processing remains. The old fishing village was destroyed in the 1970s to facilitate oil-related harbour developments.
An open letter from a local GP, signed by 22 doctors from across Aberdeen, points out that Torry is surrounded by two industrial harbours, an industrial estate, a railway line, a sewage works, landfill sites, a regional waste center, an incinerator that is currently being built, and one of the most polluted roads in Scotland. Much of the housing, the doctors say, is poor-quality – small, damp and affected by noise and light pollution. Residents frequently complain of high levels of exposure to antisocial behaviour. The doctors draw a comparison between the Aberdeen area of West End North, where the residents of two streets have exclusive access to 15 acres of mature riverside woodland, and the residents of the Torry community: “There is a 13-year difference in life expectancy between these two areas …The difference in healthy life expectancy is around twenty years. There is an eight-fold increase in the risk for someone in Torry being admitted to hospital with complications of chronic lung disease …Torry has a higher proportion of young people and children living in it … there is a significantly higher proportion of dependent children per household than in the rest of the city, and more often in single parent households. Child poverty is accordingly high. Access to private transport is less common in the area and access to distant green space is thus much more difficult …[Torry] also has the highest level of unemployment in the city. Median household income is more than four times greater in West End North … Rates of dental decay in Torry run at over 80% by the end of primary school. These schools have some of the lowest levels of attendance in the city. Teenage pregnancies are still more than twice the average for the city and around eight times more than for West End North. Prescriptions for antidepressant medication are more than twice those for West End North. Drug-related hospital stays are almost three-times the Scottish average, and drug overdoses are more frequent here than anywhere else in the city. There are also disproportionately high levels of domestic abuse and household fires.”
Now St. Fittick’s Park is under threat of industrial development, which would pave over with concrete a large part of the Park. Unbelievably, Aberdeen City Council has agreed with the Oil and Gas Industry to designate St. Fittick’s Park as an opportunity site for a new Energy Transition Zone (ETZ) in the local authority’s 2020 Proposed Local Development Plan. The Council and Energy Transition Zone Limited, the private partner in the proposed development, assert that industrial use of the park, adjacent to Aberdeen’s new South Harbour, is necessary to advance the North East’s transition to a low carbon economy. The new South Harbour itself is an affront to the biodiversity and well-being of the Torry area. As recently as one year ago, visitors to St. Fittick’s Park could walk along the shore of Nigg Bay and look out across the bay to the North Sea. Now this shore has been reduced to a placid pool blocked from the ocean by a high concrete wall.
But this proposal is only ‘unbelievable’ if you continue to think, as it was reasonable to think in the past, that our elected representatives, whether in local or national governments, are serving the interests of their electorates. These days it’s the big energy corporations with their huge wealth who run things – through lobbying and bribing our politicians, and through their control of the media so that we get to be told only their version of reality. In relation to the proposed Energy Transition Zone in Aberdeen it’s the oil tycoon Sir Ian Wood who is the mover and shaker. He got control of economic development in the city in 2016 via the City Region Deal. Wood chairs the development company Opportunity North East (ONE) which is pushing the ETZ. He has enormous influence on both Westminster and Holyrood. The Wood Review of 2014 led to the tax cuts for the Oil and Gas Industry and the principle “MaximizingEconomic Recovery of UK petroleum” in the Infrastructure Bill, 2015. Note the intentionally occult jargon of “Infrastructure Bill” and “Maximum Economic Recovery” – for which read extracting every last drop of oil and gas from the North Sea regardless of costs and climate impact. Inevitably Wood also has a huge influence on a Scottish Government which increasingly tails the Westminster Government in its energy policies. He is the man behind the plans to industrialise the park.
If you look a little more closely at the purpose of the ETZ , you are told that “The project is based on using clean energy such as offshore wind, hydrogen and carbon capture and storage”, with a quote from Wood who says “We’ve got the opportunity in the north-east of Scotland to help balance the economy with a new industry, and at the same time, play a really significant role in one of the world’s greatest problems right now in global warming.” Wood said recently that it was only in the last two or three years that he realised that climate change was a serious problem.
This is a classic example of being told only his version of the story because in reality neither hydrogen or carbon capture and storage have any chance whatsoever in reducing global warming in the necessary time-scale, nor can they be described as ‘clean energy’. For simple explanations about hydrogen energy and carbon capture and storagesee Microsoft Word – briefing 13.docx (wordpress.com) and Microsoft Word – Briefing 10.docx (wordpress.com). In reality these technologies are fake tickets to allow the oil and gas companies to continue to pay their executives and their shareholders and to remain in business.
Collision of Crises
At St. Fittick’s Park we are seeing a head-on three-way collision between the Oil and Gas Industry, the Climate Crisis, and the Cost of Living Crisis. Neither the Climate Crisis nor the Cost of Living crisis can be sustainably resolved until extraction and burning of fossil fuels is stopped globally – see the report of a recent discussion which made this clear at North Sea Oil and Gas and the Cost of Living – Employment, Energy and Environment (scote3.net) . Stopping reliance on fossil fuels will mean different things for different countries, depending on their current energy sources. But for the UK and Scotland it’s primarily about stopping North Sea oil and gas extraction.
Collisions like this are of course not unique to Aberdeen. But what makes this one unusual is that it’s actually a four-way collision involving the Nature Crisis too, plus the visual proximity between a resource vital for Nature and a resource vital for the survival of the North Sea Oil and Gas Industry. This proximity makes obvious a choice which is often blurred by the topographical distances between the conflicting interests. Moreover in the case of St. Fittick’s Park it’s not only Nature which is being put under yet another threat which it can’t afford, but it’s also the well-being of one of the most deprived communities in Scotland.
The Nature Crisis
The Nature Crisis is often side-lined, especially at times like the present when human beings are facing multiple crises. Exploitation of Nature by man goes back to the Garden of Eden. But for the roughly two hundred years since the crescendo of industrialisation in the West, we’ve become more and more conditioned to the arrogant idea that other species are here only for our benefit. It’s arguable that this arrogance is the most fundamental reason for the mess humanity is in now. Places like St. Fittick’s can help us shift our mind-set towards thinking in terms of every non-human species being important in its own right – not only those species which benefit humanity or those which are threatened by extinction.
Large numbers of local community-driven initiatives, not necessarily as big or remarkable as the St. Fittick’s initiative, are more likely to make a real difference to biodiversity than top-down directives. The Scottish Government’s top-down Biodiversity Strategy Consultation closed a week ago, the Friends of St. Fittick’s Park having submitted a robust contribution. As well as telling the remarkable story of the Park’s restoration and enhanced biodiversity, the submission points out that the Scottish Government, led by the Scottish National Party for 15 years, has presided over a range of policies which have driven the current Nature emergency the Government is consulting about:
These policies have in common that they are designed to benefit wealthy people and are driven by profit. Some of these policies are entirely the Scottish Government’s responsibility, some are through collusion with the UK Government. Unless these policies are radically reformed any attempts to address the Nature Emergency will fail, sooner rather than later. The policies which have been most crippling for Nature include:
1. Land ownership
50% of Scotland’s private rural land is owned by 432 individuals, mostly large estate-owners and industrial-scale farmers. As historian James Hunter has said: “Scotland continues to be stuck with the most concentrated, most inequitable, most unreformed and most undemocratic landownership system in the entire developed world”. In addition nearly all public land is controlled by central or local government, not by local communities.
2. The sacrifice of biodiverse land for development
Weak regulation enables more and more biodiverse land to be paved over for industrial or unaffordable housing development.
3. Farm subsidies
Huge sums of money continue to be paid to farmers, particularly large livestock farmers, to boost their profitability. Further money is paid to mostly large farmers and estate owners to improve biodiversity, but most of these people are primarily concerned with increasing their wealth, both profits and land values. Biodiversity is not often their primary motivation.
4. Bioenergy with carbon capture (BECCS)
The Scottish Government remains wedded to the concept of planting up huge areas of land with monoculture fast-growing trees, even to felling more diverse forests to make way for these new plantations. The plan is to burn the timber from these new forests in power stations and deal with the carbon emitted by “Carbon Capture” – a process yet to be developed and tested at scale.
5. North Sea oil and gas extraction
The Scottish Government is also wedded to extracting every last drop of oil and gas from the North Sea. This has a negative impact on marine species; fuels, literally, global heating; and is responsible for the current cost of living crisis.
6. A one-nation perspective
The Scottish Government’s current proposals for addressing the nature emergency are an example of its tendency to think in terms of only one nation. Biodiversity has to be considered internationally. We should be thinking in terms of what Scotland can do to contribute to the efforts of other nations.
If the Nature Crisis was brought centre-stage two benefits, beyond enhanced biodiversity, could follow. First, at least some of the many people who care strongly about Nature, given information which would help them to recognise that profit for the wealthy is what drives the Nature, the Climate, the Cost of Living and the Poverty crises in common, they would be more likely to join the fight to stop North Sea oil and gas extraction, which is fundamental to all four crises in the UK and Scotland.
Second, young people and children are in general more and more aware of the devastation to Nature they see around them. These are the people who will sustain the fight for a better world long after our time is up. It was because the young people of the Climate Camp movement feel an urgency to stop this devastation that they based themselves in St. Fittick’s Park this summer. When they arrived they were shown round the Park, having to take care not to tread on abundant tiny frogs.
Children in particular tend to be alert to the Nature around them. The younger the children, the closer they are to the ground to make observations that we may not notice. A few weeks ago, at an Open Day for the Strathblane Wildlife Sanctuary (a much smaller and more recent initiative than St. Fittick’s Park), it was my pleasant job to lead tours of the site. For the first tour of the day ten pre-school children and ten parents turned up at the gate. The tour was led not by me but by the children, who ran ahead to point out lady-birds, slugs and molehills.
Our fight as adults must include ensuring that every child has the opportunity to explore wild land in their immediate neighbourhood.
If you want to join the fight to save St. Fittick’s Park by becoming a Friend of the Park please email
War on Want’s new report ‘A Material Transition’ exposes the environmental destruction and human rights abuses that mining for renewable energy could unleash. The climate crisis, the Covid-19 pandemic and rampant global inequality all have their roots in our resource-intense society.
The report highlights what can be done to avert this devastation and sets out a pathway for a globally just energy future: respect for the rights of affected communities, ensuring just and fair supply chains, and a reduction to harm for workers and the need for new resource extraction.
We’d like to publish a review of this report please get in touch if you would like to submit one.
In this post Scot.E3 activist Ann Morgan shares the letter she has written to Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair work and Culture. Add your voices to Ann’s.
Dear Fiona Hyslop,
I have lived in West Dunbartonshire mostly all my life (I am now retired and live in Govan) and retain links with family, friends and community organisations. I have followed and participated in the Save Loch Lomond campaign. The campaign currently highlights the possibility of a planning application by Lomond Banks, subsidiary of Flamingo Land and the extension of the exclusivity agreement, effectively excluding alternative community led proposals for the site and for job creation.
I wish to comment both on the ecological impact on the site and provide examples of sustainable climate jobs.
I do so as a participant in SCOT.E3 (Employment, Energy, Environment) and as a member of Unite the Union (retired members). I am active in a number of local community projects including food -growing and provision and I am keen to share the successes of initiatives with other communities, including the Leamy Foundation /Growing West Dunbartonshire Project. I am not commenting on behalf of these agencies but draw on my research and activism within them to outline objections and alternatives to the proposed developments at the lochside.
The Scottish Government declared a Climate Emergency in April 2019. Emissions reductions targets include reductions of 70% by 2030. This declaration must be followed by action.
Allan McQuade of Scottish Enterprise, in reference to the proposal, talks of sustainability and syas that the fight against climate change as ‘central to everything we do.’
Action must be two-fold, Protective and proactive.
Protection around biodiversity is of paramount importance. The State of Nature Report (a collaboration between conservation and research organisations) reported in 2019.The report contains the best available data on Scotland’s biodiversity. Key findings show 49% of species have decreases in abundance with 11% threatened with extinction. The First Minister in response states that Scotland must lead the way in facing the challenges to biodiversity.
With the above in mind, I request that the cabinet minister considers the impact on biodiversity on the National Park environment. Specifically, on the impact on Drumkinnin Woods within the West Riverside site. This is erroneously referred to as a Brownfield Site. It is part of the National Park. The stated aim of the designated Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park is to conserve and enhance the natural and cultural heritage of the area.
The proposed development is at odds with the Scottish Government and National Park aims. The ecological impact would
Endanger wildlife-insects, birds, trees and water species. Woodlands and rivers are especially vulnerable.
The impacts arise from noise, light, traffic emissions and increased pollution.
The above are exacerbated when there is a high concentration of visitors in the one area. Sustainable Tourism encourages movement, public transport use with rover tickets and electric people carrier hire. Single car use and enabling by large car parking space must be disincentivised.
The FM also describes in the annual Programme for Government that it is a key aim of the Scottish Government to empower communities. The retention of the exclusivity agreement contradicts this aim. Under the Nature Conservation (Scotland)Act 2004 public bodies in Scotland have a duty to further conservation in biodiversity.
My involvement with Scot.E3 has given me insight into the potential for Climate Jobs (see 1 million Jobs pamphlet). Specific to Scotland a just transition could include advancing regional specific renewables energy, district heating and a programme of retro fitting and new build housing and public building with apprenticeship skills in insulation, joinery, roofing, glazing and heating, linking with schools and further education. My perspective, shared with environmental groups, is that this type of job creation is both more sustainable and career focused than many jobs in the hospitality sector, often minimum waged or even zero hours contracts and seasonal. That said, there are ways to encourage sustainable and responsible tourism with quality training for those seeking careers in the tourism. It is of concern that the original proposal carried none of these assurances. Any development with employment opportunities must adhere to the principles outlined in the Fair Work Convention.
Finally, the experience of the pandemic has greatly impacted on local and global tourism. There are scientists, ecologists, biologists, economists and epidemiologists (David Attenborough included) who are warning of future pandemics, with potential of more virulent strains. The current variant is concerning with increased contagion /transmission.
Rob Wallace, evolutionary biologist, charts the link between habitat destruction, biodiversity loss and the increase in zoonotic transmission of infection. Again, this points to the important of biodiversity protection. Tourism is of course both impacted by and causal in transmission. Therefore, a rethink on safety in travel and transit will be required for tourist dependent development. Linked with emission reduction this presents as an opportunity to put environmental protection as Allan McQuade asserts, central in Scottish Enterprise approval.
The fragility of tourism as well as its importance to the Scottish Economy is recognised. Within this perspective, social justice with environmental integrity is required.
Friday 1st February, 7pm at Lochgelly Town Hall, Bank Street KY5 9
This is a really important meeting. According to the Scottish Environmental ProtectionAgency (SEPA) the ExxonMobil plant at Mossmorran in Fife is the second biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in Scotland – only the INEOS complex at Grangemouth is a bigger polluter. People living in the vicinity of the plant have suffered from excessive flaring and poor air quality for a long time. The Mossmorran Action group has been campaigning for a resolution to these issues. George Kerevan has recently written about the ways in which SEPA has failed to respond adequately to their concerns.
The plant is currently being returned to operation after a shut down in August 2019. Flaring and pollution has been at a high level and yesterday around 170 workers walked off the site to highlight concerns over working conditions and safety. There needs to urgent action to protect the health and safety of local residents and workers. But in light of the climate crisis Mossmorran must also be part of a plan for a rapid phased run down of the Scottish petrochemical industry in which the workers are supported in a just transition to new sustainable jobs – part of the just transition that is so urgently needed.
Climate Justice is the theme of this year’s Edinburgh World Justice Festival held at various venues in Edinburgh between 28th September and 19th October. Among the speakers at the conference held on Saturday 12th October was Asad Rehman from War in Want. The video is just over 20 minutes and is highly recommended.
Edinburgh City Council (having already told school students in the city that they can only walk out to take action over climate once in a year) is now saying that they can’t march down Princes Street on 20th September. This from a council that has happily closed down streets around the city in the last few days to facilitate a multi million dollar movie. No questions asked about the huge climate footprint of that operation.
School students around the world have done a magnificent job in putting collective action on the agenda. Contact the council, email your councillors, get your workmates and/or union branch to send a message to the council that their declaration of a climate emergency rings hollow unless they give full support to the school students who are leading the way.
One of the lead stories on the BBC today is the UK’s oil and gas industry assertion that the best response to tackling greenhouse gas emissions is to continue production at maximum levels. Oil and Gas UK’s “Roadmap to 2035” argues consumption would remain above the levels they could produce.
Neil Rothnie, life long offshore oil worker and activist, argues the case for an end to business as usual and a just transition out of hydrocarbon production in the North Sea.
Both the UK oil industry and Government seem to think that new licenses should be issued and oil and gas exploration on the North Sea stepped up. The industry estimates that 20 billion bbls of fossil fuel remain under the North Sea. No one in authority seems to think that these reserves should not be fully exploited.
This begs the questions;
If a policy of business as usual is to be applied to the North Sea, why then should Saudi Arabian, Gulf of Mexico, Venezuelan, Sakhalin, Nigerian and other hydrocarbon reserves not also be fully exploited?
What would the effect of producing all the world’s oil and gas be on global warming and climate change?
The Scottish Government seem to be prepared to try and lead us to an independent Scotland based on a carbon economy. According to the First Minister, Scotland’s carbon emissions would increase if oil production from the North Sea was stopped. This only makes any kind of sense if there is to be no transition to a renewable energy system to replace fossil fuel from the North Sea.
Despite government complacency, the oil industry will come under increasing pressure – financial and political – to reduce and eventually end hydrocarbon production, though perhaps not till it’s too late to avoid catastrophic climate change if the politicians and industry leaders have their way.
The past practice of both oil industry and Government suggests that the workforce, offshore and onshore, will then be abandoned to their own devices, creating the sort of wilderness in the North East of Scotland that the UK coalfields became when there was no just transition from coal. Energy workers and their families from all over the UK would then be very badly affected. Though this time it looks as though they won’t suffer in isolation if climate science predictions are realised.
The unjust transition from coal wasn’t inevitable. The miners and their families were punished for standing up to Thatcher’s plans to cripple organised labour. Offshore employers wanted anyone but ex-miners with their tradition of struggle, on the North Sea, and the unions failed to step up to the mark. This time it has to be different for everyone’s sake.
A just transition to renewable energy could be planned and enacted starting now. New oil and gas exploration could immediately be stopped and a planned rundown of hydrocarbon production and a massive development of renewable resources begun now.
Not a penny of the oil windfall has so far been saved for the peoples of the UK. Is it not now imperative that all (declining) oil profits must be immediately re-invested in developing the renewables energy sector? Retraining of the oil industry workforce is a must where there is an expected skills gap in a much-expanded renewables sector. The current oil and gas workforce can and should be re-deployed to replace the fossil fuel that we can no longer afford to produce. Without a just transition to renewable energy from sun, wind and wave, we are fucked.
Our children and grandchildren deserve more from us than business as usual. They and the rest of the remaining life on the planet need a chance of a future that does not include the misery of living through a global meltdown.
In previous posts and briefing documents we have argued that HUnterston poses a grave threat to the safety of everyone living in the Central Belt and that moreover, nuclear should have no part in the transition to a sustainable economy.
The Office of Nuclear Regulation has given EDF permission to restart reactor 4 at Hunterston B. The date is not yet certain but the probable date is 30th August. Although cracking in Reactor 4 is not as extensive as in Reactor 3, there is an issue of some cracks openings that are greater than 1.2 cm wide (ie ~½ inch).
Actions you might wish to take:
Write (with copies to social media) to the following people – (addresses are given below)
the Chief Inspector of the Office of Nuclear Regulation (ONR),
the Chief Executive of the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA),
your own MSP and the current Scottish Minister for Energy
the Scottish Government’s Director of Energy and Climate Change
In writing to the above and in using social media, you might express the views that:
both the Hunterston B reactors should remain closed for good
that EDF and North Ayrshire Council should publish their plans for evacuation in the event of a nuclear accident; and
that free potassium iodate tablets should be pre-distributed to the population within 50 km of Hunterston B.
Consider planning, organising and participating in demonstrations outside Hunterston.
As workers at Belfast’s Harland and Wolff shipyard fight to save their jobs, demanding nationalisation as the employer goes into administration, Brian Parkin from ScotE3 reports on the response from the UK Construction Rank and File group, argues for solidarity and highlights links with action to tackle the climate emergency. This article was first published on http://www.rs21.org.uk
The mighty shipyard of Harland and Wolff, whose enormous cranes, Samson and Goliath, dominate the Belfast skyline, is now facing the final phase of closure. Most famed for being the shipyard that built the ill-fated Titanic, these yards and their local supply companies employed up to 30,000 workers at their peak. Now, after repeated capacity and job-sheddings, only 121 workers remain.
The remaining workers have been given redundancy notices, but have said no to the supposed inevitability of market forces and the whims of hedge-fund capital. In a bid to save their jobs, they have mounted a workplace occupation. These men and women of the Unite and GMB unions are not looking back to the days of mighty ocean liners and battleships. Instead, they have evaluated the productive assets of the yards and have seen them as part of the vital industrial capacity that can begin to turn the tide in the battle against climate change. They have combined their technical skills with their knowledge of the Harland and Wolff production potential with a vision of how they can fabricate the structures and internals of wave, wind and tidal units that can harness the vast renewable resources that can provide clean, affordable and abundant energy.
All too aware of empty promises and crocodile tears of politicians and would-be investors, the workforce have played their ultimate hand: they have occupied and taken over the means of production in order to prevent asset strippers and bailiffs moving in and destroying further the productive potential of their sole means of production – and with it the hope of clean energy technologies so badly needed as climate change accelerates.
But these workers cannot fight alone. So far their unions have promised official support. But that support will be conditional – until a prospective bidder comes along with the any rescue bid inevitably demanding further flexibility and productivity promises of the workforce. Which is why the example of the UK Construction Rank and File in promising solidarity is so important. And now, within weeks of the global climate strikes and protests on 20 September, the climate change movement has a concrete example to put workers’ action centre stage.
Harland and Wolff and an emerging campaign of former BiFab workers in Fife are at last bringing together the issues of jobs worth having within a campaign for a planet capable of being saved.
The UK Construction Rank and File passed the following motion at its annual general meeting on Saturday 3 August:
The Annual General Meeting of the UK Construction workers rank and File note the heroic factory occupation of the Harland and Wolff plant in Belfast in their bid to save jobs.
We further note their demand that the present plant and jobs therein be turned over to the production of renewable energy technologies that will not only meet the growing demand for clean renewable sources of energy, but will also make a vital contribution to the fight against impending and potentially catastrophic climate change.
In their present struggle the H&W workers are showing the way by which in the fight for jobs, the conversion of employment and means of production can be redeployed into both socially and environmentally dedicated ends.
We commend the leadership on Unite for the official support that they are extending to the H&W occupation and call upon the wider labour movement to take up the fight for jobs, communities and the energy needs and environmental responsibilities of future generations.
Furthermore, we urge all workers to support next month’s climate strikes and protests, both as a show of solidarity with H&W, but as a sign of the commitment to the working class’s vital role in the fight against climate change and our planets environment and eco-systems.