Save Grangemouth

A significant unvoiced difficulty with Alex Salmond’s appeals for Scottish voters to seize the moment and use the resources and infrastructure north of the Tweed to manage a new country is that much infrastructure is either linked firmly with or situated in the rest of the UK. There is little incentive to extend HS2 beyond Leeds if the future political situation for the Central Belt conurbation which would benefit from the link remains in doubt.

Or Grangemouth site on the Firth of Forth which is Scotland’s only oil refinery and produces 80% of her fuel and, in turn, funds 10% of her GDP.

Industrial disputes have rumbled on for some years since the Ineos Group purchased it in 2004, with attempts to implement a new contract to, amongst other reasons, bring the pension fund out of the £200 millions deep red (not helped where employees conceivably retiring in their 50s on £40,000 enjoy a final salary pension) as well as declining North Sea resources; and came to a head this summer with the suspension of long-term employee, local Labour Party chairman and Unite convener Stephen Deans as a result of his role in the Falkirk West debacle.

Although Ineos Group ultimately reinstated Deans following strike threats “to shut [your] factory down”, Unite continued on its original tack. The Ineos Group now appears to taken this threat to heart and announced the mothballing of the petrochemical operations a year before earlier dire predictions, and until any and all threats of strikes are removed.

Constituency MP, Eric Joyce is no longer restrained by Labour Party whips or half a dozen Police officers, and continues not to pull his punches.

Salmond no doubt seeing his hope for a Yes vote slipping even further beyond the pelagic zone, had called-on Unite to enter into a “no strings attach” deal in order for the Ineos Group to “fire-up” the site.

He certainly is less bullish and opportunistically populist than on previous industrial disputes such as personally endorsing a 2012 campaign to retain the Dandy comic, and bloviating at a 2009 rally to halt the closure of Diageo bottling plants at Kilmarnock and Port Dundas; a decision he attributed on “London boardrooms” which unwanted by anyone in Scotland (as if no-one the SNP constituency of Leven – promised relocation operations – were not secretly hoping for it).

And not as utterly pathetic as when he warned that the Economist would rue the day when it published an uncomplimentary cover design. (See also minor author Alan Bisset’s manufactured outrage at the Wigtown Book Festival’s observation that National Collective doggerel writer, Nigel Stuart’s panegyric Morning After was truly mince.)

There is now the growing realization in Salmond’s head that with power comes responsibility, as seen with his vying for either a buyer or bale-out for Grangemouth. I am reasonably confident that the Ineos Group will re-open the mothballed areas of the site at least in part, especially as it previously had promised a renovated cracker to receive shale gas from the USA: in hat-tip to Fembota, currently North Sea gas fields such as the sealed Rhum pose a far greater risk of catastrophic incident than fracking .

I am even more confident, however, that any Government-backed deal with see pension liabilities pass to the public purse as has happened with the Royal Mail firesale.