Protecting Steel in the UK

Published date : 23 January, 2024
First, I express my concerns on behalf of the 2,800 workers at Port Talbot who will lose their jobs and the many others in that community and the surrounding area who will feel the knock-on ramifications of this decision. It is a situation that all too many communities in Scotland, and indeed across the UK, remember from the toxic legacy of the Government’s industrial policies in the 1980s, when the rapid enforced decline of heavy industry across too many places was progressed with. That toxic legacy gives us a prime example, if we needed one, of how not to go about an industrial transition. With the rejection of the multi-union plan, it seems that the present-day Government have learned no lesson in that regard.

Make no mistake: this decision is economically, environmentally and strategically inept. It means that the UK takes a step closer to being the only state in the G20 without the capacity to make its own virgin steel. That is a risk to security, but it also means that the UK is effectively outsourcing the emissions associated with the production of that virgin steel, while unforgivably offshoring the jobs. That is not a just transition; it is just plain daft.

The green transition that we know we need to make should be a main driver of economic growth in the decades ahead, and we can see how Governments in the EU and in the US who get to grips with that challenge can drive forward that investment. In contrast, in Port Talbot we see a £500-million UK Government investment leading to the direct loss of 2,800 jobs. That is a transition of a sort, I suppose, but it does not come anywhere close to meeting the needs of the communities there, the economy or the planet.

Finally, I say as gently as I can to those on the Labour Front Bench that if decarbonisation is not to mean deindustrialisation, they should please have a word with their leader and make sure that he does not water down any further his £28 billion pledge, because communities that depend on our getting the transition right, such as mine, deserve and expect no less.

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