So, not many months ago, nationalisation was unfashionable and unlikely ever to return, especially within the EU where that institution’s rules would discourage it, rules enthusiastically led and in truth advocated and encouraged by previous UK governments.
Now for all intents and purposes the Ferguson yard at Port Glasgow has become fully owned by the Scottish government. The alternative would have been to lose 350 skilled jobs, the hulls of the two partly built ferries and £45mn in government loans already handed over to the defunct company and as a trade Union representative of the shipbuilders in Port Glasgow said: ‘that is no choice at all’.
I don’t share the frequently voiced horror of nationalisation and I think it is often a better option than losing an enterprise and the skills and jobs it supports, or to watch them be absorbed by sometimes foreign and very often unfair and unequal competition. The once nationalised British steel industry, where I once worked making railway track for export the world over (I had help of course) is but a shadow of its former self and its future is still in grave doubt. And the trains, locomotives and rolling stock I see now and often have to use are of Japanese and currently Spanish in origin, while being paid for by usually UK taxpayers in one form or another. So, in my view the Scottish government had ended up ’between a rock and a hard place’ on this controversy, though it is still a mystery to me how the ferry contract could go so thoroughly wrong so quickly, and if there is an enquiry, and how can there not be, I wonder if a mix of over enthusiasm, inexperience and naivety played a large part, possibly on both sides, both the commercial company building them and by those responsible for ordering the ferries.