British Leyland. Motorola. Levi Strauss. Hall’s of Broxburn. The names are etched into the economic history of West Lothian. Big employers who came and went. Who provided much needed jobs and then, in a flash, were gone, leaving unemployment, desperation and a government task force to mop up the mess.
The Hall’s closure, like the others, has been likened to a pit closure. It employed 1700 people in a town with few other opportunities and several generations of family members all working there.
In July, the factory’s owner, Vion UK, announced it intended to end production, claiming the plant was inefficient and losing £79,000 every day. Vion had purchased the plant in 2008 from Grampian Country Food Group, which had been in financial difficulties for several years.
Since that announcement closure has always seemed the most likely outcome.
The Scottish Government formed a taskforce to find a way of saving Hall’s, which slaughters 75 per cent of Scotland’s pigs. Vion said yesterday neither of the two bids for the site had been “viable” and some areas of the plant would cease production this month, with the remainder closed by February.
The key now is for the Government taskforce to use its clout to help find alternative employment for those affected and to develop new economic opportunities for West Lothian as a region. The news isn’t good, but history tells us that West Lothian has bounced back before. It will do so again.
As the ink dries on the historic Edinburgh Agreement, the real debate over the most important decision in Scotland’s history for more than 300 years is about to begin.
Instead of the arguments over the process of the referendum, who should be allowed to vote, and what question or questions should be asked, our political leaders can concentrate on putting some meat on the bones of the central issue – should Scotland stay in the UK?
The Prime Minister’s visit to Edinburgh yesterday marked the starting gun in a two-year battle for your vote. Everyone should get involved and arm themselves with as much information as possible before reaching a decision.
After all, the trip to the ballot box in autumn 2014 will never have been more important.
Scotland’s future whether it remains part of the UK or becomes independent is not in the hands of Alex Salmond or David Cameron. It’s a decision for all of us.