It’s getting more and more difficult to restrain myself as crewman of the good ship S.N.P.* Greenock & Inverclyde. I set out this campaign for sunny shores, promoting the positivity of the SNP, spreading the record of captain Stuart McMillan. We were to ignore the maddening music of the Sirens, no matter how much we wished to challenge their assertions and taunts: all they were intent upon was to tempt us to crash our precious ship against the hidden rocks beneath the surface.
Easier said than done. “Forth Road Bridge!” “State Snooper!” “College Places!” “£5/7/10/15 Billion BLAGOLE!” “Unquestioning Cult!” “Separation Shuts Shipyards!”
Separation Shuts Shipyards. I could rant and rave about the duplicity, the betrayal, the double-dealings of other parties who assured Scottish voters that only a vote for the Union could protect jobs, guarantee contracts, safeguard livelihoods… only to watch as everything they claimed would happen with a Yes vote happened anyway. The “Separation Shuts Shipyards” one stings – because when the shipyards looked to the broad shoulders of the UK for aid, time and time again, the UK simply shrugged.
Yet there’s little that could be done ranting: what can be done to help? We know – because when the shipyards looked to the Scottish government for aid, the Scottish government did not shrug.
They did not look to the industry which brought so much to Scotland and dismiss them as “uncompetitive.” They did not see the thousands of workers and sneer that their skillbase and equipment was “inefficient.” They did not watch as Ferguson’s – the last shipyard in Inverclyde – went into receivership, and feign concern over the 80 lost jobs. Even when the Union audaciously blamed the Scottish government, and Alex Salmond in particular, for not doing enough – while at the same time openly campaigning to remain in a UK whose parties offered meaningless promises and false premises.
Unlike the impotent hand–wringing of the Other Party and the callous indifference of the UK government’s party, the Scottish Government will do all they can to help those workers. When Ferguson’s went into administration, the media seemed content to accept its demise: a sad coda to the long, slow death of Inverclyde shipbuilding, only a month before the referendum. The narrative seemed to be tailored – if Scotland cannot protect what they have in the UK, how can they be expected to do any better independent?
Yet, as the saying goes, rumours of Ferguson’s demise turned out to be greatly exaggerated. Within a month, Clyde Blowers Capital took over the yard; weeks later, the revitalised Ferguson Marine won a £12.3 million contract to build a hybrid ferry for Calmac. A month later, it won another contract – this time a £93 million contract for two CMAL ferries. Over the next year, Ferguson looked into expanding operations into Inchgreen, take on 150 new apprentices, and aim to hire 1,300 workers by 2020.
21 months after going into receivership, Ferguson Marine is flourishing. And few could be happier than Stuart McMillan:
I am happy to meet the First Minister and Deputy First Minister at Ferguson Marine to show them the excellent work being done here to regenerate shipbuilding on the Clyde.
It’s great to see the First Minister back in Inverclyde again and this highlights the importance of Ferguson’s to the local area, and the importance of shipbuilding industry in Scotland.
The SNP Scottish Government responded quickly to the closure of Ferguson’s, with ministers forming a task group which met within days. We worked hard to achieve the purchase of the yard as a going concern and were delighted when Jim McColl’s bid delivered this.
The strategic vision for Ferguson Marine will turn it into a 21st century business within a year with ambitious plans for 1,300 jobs and £65 million of investment.
This is a remarkable success story for Inverclyde.
This issue is very important to me not just because of Ferguson’s location in Inverclyde, but because the SNP candidate for Greenock & Inverclyde personally played a significant role in its continuation and success:
If the Scottish Government could save Ferguson’s, then I know they will do everything they can to save Scotstoun and Govan. Stuart McMillan is one of 73 SNP candidates standing in constituencies across Scotland, in addition to dozens more standing on the Regional list – and I am certain that every single one of them would do all they could for their constituencies.
It’s another reason I have no reservations voting for the SNP on the constituency and on the list – because the SNP have more than proven their worth as a majority government. It isn’t just because of fear of losing a majority in regards to a future referendum, or “letting Unionists in” – the SNP deserve another majority government. Ferguson Marine’s regeneration is a testament to that, and Stuart McMillan personally, just as the Forth Road Bridge was to Derek Mackay and the Fiscal Framework deal to John Swinney. And in the event of a second majority government in May, I am hopeful Scotstoun and Govan will be further proof.
Stronger for Scotland isn’t just a hashtag: it’s a motto based on a record the Scottish Executive could only dream of. And the SNP dreams bigger still.
*Scottish Navy Patroller. Seriously agonised over that one: could’ve gone for Pinnace, Pilot, Pink, Punt, Pram, Pentekonter or Paddlesteamer, but didn’t want to tie the Independent Scottish Navy to any one ship type.