The big cranes are moving again

A shipbuilding contract to die for, worth £372 million and 3,700 jobs – on Clydeside, for the Royal Navy. Ian Jack, a seasoned Scots reporter long ago translated to London has gone back to Glasgow to write a terrific piece in the Guardian about the revival of an old industry. Yet Govan it seems, has long rejected the nostalgia for the old days which in Belfast is all that’s left of the old H&W tradition ( well, not quite all).

Perhaps… the Clyde shipyard’s publicist is right when she says her company, BAE Systems, needs to change “the Scottish mindset”, which is less than thrilled by the idea of shipbuilding, yards being relegated along with pits and iron forges to folk memory. There were so many years of grieving, when heavy industry was in a kind of hospice. The bereaved have at last let go.

Yet, despite the growing importance of services in the economy, there’s still something about “making things” rather than sitting over a PC or flipping a burger that is more substantial, more worthy even, particularly in these days of credit crunch.

Has the real legacy of the Yard been neutered in a marketing strategy for flats and marinas? Or could the appetite for highly-skilled craft manufacturing ever be revived on the Lagan, given half the chance?

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London