Grangemouth deal brings both relief and serious questions

By staff writers
October 25, 2013

The news today that Jim Ratcliffe, major shareholder in Ineos, has reversed the decision to axe 800 jobs and close the Grangemouth petrochemical site has been received with relief by both the workforce and the local community.

But serious economic, social and environmental questions remain about a process whereby a single owner controls a facility that provides 80 per cent of Scotland's fuel, and where it remains in the power of one man to close it down or keep it open at will.

The company has also been accused by critics of a 'bullying' approach, and hard-pressed families will have to make significant sacrifices through massive pay cuts and loss of pension rights.

Commentator Joyce Macmillan has poignantly described this as "the price of staying in work, in the century of the rich."

She wrote in The Scotsman newspaper today (25 October 2013): "It is still essential to keep asking whether we really have to tolerate this chronic lack of economic democracy for ever; or whether the British and/or Scottish public might now be able to reclaim a significant stake in industries which are so vital to our future security and wellbeing...

"To raise the possibility of a public stake in Grangemouth, though, is to challenge the uncritical free-market consensus that has dominated UK politics since the early 1990s, and to suggest the need for a new 21st-century form of social democracy," wrote Ms Macmillan.

Daily Record columnist Joan Burnie declared: "It’s about control. When you sell something off to foreign vulture hedge funds – as the Co-op Bank was [forced to] this week – or [to] someone else’s government, when it all goes rancid, our own politicians can do little but stand on the edges of the industrial carnage wringing their hands."

Meanwhile, green and environmental activists say the whole saga raises profound issues about the consequences of long-term over dependence on 'big energy', the week before the Fossil Free tour, which features speakers, music and activism in London, Birmingham and Edinburgh. The tour is supported by groups including Operation Noah, Christianity Uncut, Ekklesia and Quaker Peace & Social Witness.

On the Ineos announcement about Grangemouth, Pat Rafferty, Unite union Scottish secretary, said: "This decision is clearly very welcome. Relief will ring right round the Grangemouth community, and across Scotland today. Hundreds of jobs that would have been lost can now be saved and £300 million will be invested into the plant.

"Obviously today's news is tinged with sadness - decent men and women are being asked to make sacrifices to hold onto their jobs, but the clear wish of our members is that we work with the company to implement its proposals.

"Unite has worked tirelessly to save Grangemouth because we are totally committed to this plant and its incredible workforce. We will now sit down with Ineos to consult on the company's proposals," said Mr Rafferty.

* Joyce McMillan: 'The sorry story of Grangemouth' -

* Robin McAlpine: 'Grangemouth shows just how broken Britain is' -


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