1979 bid to save Burntisland Shipyard after work dried up

1979 Fife Free Press report on Burntisland Shipyard running out of work
1979 Fife Free Press report on Burntisland Shipyard running out of work

As trades unionists and politicians lobby EDF to secure crucial wind turbine jackets, we look back to equally turbulent times for the yard in 1979.

August 1979 saw an eleventh hour bid to rescue Burntisland Shipyard launched just as the last order was finally completed and the last workers paid off.

A top level delegation from Fife travelled to London to discuss the future of the module fabrication yard with Minister of State of Industry Adam Butler,

Even as the talks went on, the first of the two modules destined for Texaco’s Tartan Field – the last work to be done at the yard - was being floated out into the Forth.

The second module began its journey to the North Sea in the early hours of Wednesday, leaving the doomed yard with only a skeleton workforce of office and maintenance staff

After arriving back from the London talks, Councillor Robert King, convenor of Kirkcaldy District Council, said the deputation had stressed the “grave concern” for the unemployment situation in Burntisland and throughout the region

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They emphasised that the closure of the yard and the disbandment of the workforce – there were 900 workers at Burntisland at the height of the Texaco contract – was being followed by redundancies at the Methil yard of Redpath de Groot Caledonian.

Cllr King said: “One of the important points which emerged was that the corporate plan of British Shipbuilders – owners of the Burntisland yard – declares an interest in module building for North Sea oil installations,and yet the facilities at Burntisland do not feature in that programme.

“It is obvious that British Shipbuilders will have to invest considerable amount of money to enable them to carry our their intention, and it seems ridiculous to us that they should make that investment elsewhere when they have ready made facilities at Burntisland.

“British Shipbuilders have spent some £5m of taxpayers money on the development. It seems indefensible that they should abandon that investment and spend more taxpayers’ money to adapt other yards.”

Cllr King said there was a feeling Burntisland was being ignored, and had been for some time – that a negative view had been taken from the outset in favour of other areas.

After the meeting, Mr Butler said he would consider all the points and raise them with Burntisland Shipyard.