Comment: What Grangemouth needs is the spirit of Upper Clyde shipbuilders

The Labour Party must stand in solidarity with the people of Grangemouth.

Max Shanly is Regional Representative for the South East on the Young Labour National Committee

Update 21:00: Political leaders have expressed optimism for the future of Grangemouth plant after unions accepted a survival plan.

Grangemouth oil refinery is to close, the workforce to be disbanded, a community desolated and the lives of ordinary workingmen and women to be destroyed – all in the pursuit of profit by faceless men with no interest but that of the accumulation of more money.

Unite have waged a strong battle to save the livelihoods of workers at Grangemouth, and yet the might of Capital over Labour has seemingly prevailed.

But will the people of Grangemouth let forces that have no interest of their own succeed?

The general consensus of the union, the workers, and the Scottish people is that Grangemouth should be brought into public ownership. Judging by the reactions to the closure on Twitter, the vast majority of Labour Party members agree with this too – and yet the leadership has been surprisingly quiet.

The fact is that public ownership is a very popular idea. According to a recent poll conducted by the Sunday Times, seventy per cent of the public are against the privatization of Royal Mail, a further fifty-three per cent believe the NHS should be wholly owned and funded by the taxpayer, and over half of the British public are in favour of renationalization of the railways.

State intervention in industry represents nothing more than national participation in the economy. Bringing private enterprise into public ownership isn’t some wishy washy left-wing idea to bring about a socialist utopia (although it certainly helps), but about doing what is right in terms of the public interest. Bringing Grangemouth into public ownership would give us, the public, an enormous opportunity to direct investment in the energy sector, lower the prices of fuel, and create more jobs where needed.

Grangemouth should be brought into public ownership, that is something we can all agree on. The question now is whether or not the legal owners – and I stress the term legal owners – deserve to be compensated or not.

That is all by the by really: we shall not be awakening tomorrow to a Labour government that has the power to do so, but what we do have is a workforce that is eager to work, eager to make Grangemouth a success, and most importantly, a workforce that wishes to take control of its own destiny.

This is why the workers at Grangemouth have an opportunity to do what hasn’t happened in forty years: to take over the oil refinery themselves, and in doing so lay claim to a revival of one of the best Scottish Labour movement traditions – the work-in – and with it bring about a fundamental shift in the balance of power at Grangemouth in favour of those who work there. ‘The Spirit of Upper Clyde Shipbuilders’ has the opportunity to come alive again.

It is unquestionable that they would, as was the case for the UCS workers, have a tremendous and almost universal amount of public support for their cause.

Grangemouth workers decide to do, whether that be to inact a work-in or otherwise, is ultimately down to them, and a united Labour movement should support them in their collective endeavours.

That is what ‘One Nation’ is all about.

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