Jim Mather, Argyll’s MSP and Minister for Enterprise, Energy and Tourism, has paid tribute to Jimmy Reid, the inspirational trade unionist from Upper Clyde Shipbuilders who died in Inverclyde Hospital yesterday morning – 11th August 2010. Latterly living in Rothesay in Argyll’s Isle of Bute, he had become ill last weekend.
Jimmy Reid led the long legendary ‘lock-in work-in’ of workers at the shipyard. They were threatened with the loss of the yard and their jobs in the decline in Britain in the late 60s and 70s of the will to reinvent, reinvest and develop the country’s great engineering and manufacturing industries. Edward Heath’s government planned to remove state subsidy from the shipyards.
With the inventive lock-in (as opposed to the usual lock-out by management of workers to be shed) Reid committed the workforce to a position of responsibility that reinforced the seriousness of their intent.
He said in an address to them: ‘We are not going to strike. We are not even having a sit-in strike. Nobody and nothing will come in and nothing will go out without our permission. And there will be no hooliganism, there will be no vandalism, there will be no bevvying because the world is watching us’.
He made another resonant statement in a television news interview at the time, dignifying the values, the worth and the humanity of working men: ‘The rat race is for rats. We are not rats’.
The work-in seized the moral impetus, reinforced in the eye of the public the contribution of labour to the economy – which Liberal Leader Jo Grimond rightly insisted was ‘capital’ – and the rights that ought to be associated with such an input. Heath’s government knew when they were beaten, with Reid’s leadership of the initiative winning a reversal of the decision to leave the shipyards to the whim of the market.
Jim Mather, the epitome of the non-partisan politician, pays tribute to a member of three political parties, the Communists, Labour and, in despair at Blair’s New Labour, latterly the Scottish Nationalists. Of a man who became a hero to many of us, Mr Mather says:
“I know that Jimmy’s passing will have made today a reflective one for many people.
‘For me, he was a constituent, a friend, a mentor and my all-time-favourite newspaper columnist – always able to make a wise and convincing contribution in any situation – so the contemplation has been deep.
‘He and I converged in our thinking from very similar starting points but from very different life experiences and I will always owe him a personal debt for keeping me aware that we must keep striving to pull all of Scotland together.
‘His contribution to Scotland has been immense. He restored true principles, sound values and warm humanity in the hearts and minds of many people and now he has left others with the job of making that more pervasive.
‘That obligation lies now with all of us – and of course he armed us for the task with his legacy of articles, books and ideas, his ability to debate and challenge the ideas of others and his willingness to read anything that would enable him to learn.
‘He will never be forgotten – or thanked enough’.