Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder


Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th December 1973.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr David Lambie Mr David Lambie , Central Ayrshire 12:00 am, 11th December 1973

The hon. Gentleman has been spending so long in the South-East that he has no knowledge of the West of Scotland. In the area between Ardrossan, Saltcoats and Stevenston we get more visitors from Glasgow and the West of Scotland industrial area than any other area of Clydeside. On a good day we get about 60,000 people on the grass and sands in that area.

I remind the hon. Member that the last time I was down at Portencross in the Hunterston Peninsula was when I was a boy. I have never been back since because I was told then "You have no right to be here. This is private property." Now they want 100,000 Glasgow people down in the Hunterston area to enjoy the scenic beauty. We are considering an industrial project over a coastline of about four-and-a-half miles. In the stretch between Ardrossan and Irvine we have one of the main industrial areas, particularly for the chemical industry. It is still an attractive area. People still go there in hundreds of thousands every year to enjoy the sands and the other tourist facilities like golfing.

No one in the Ardrossan, Saltcoats and Stevenston area regrets that 100 years ago this year Alfred Nobel, in search of an ideal site for a munitions factory, decided on the area between Stevenston and Irvine. He placed his munitions factory—or his "dynamite" as we call it locally—in this area and there grew up one of the greatest companies in the world, ICI. We are talking about a small area of land. It will not interfere with Millport, Rothesay, Dunoon, Ballantrae, Girvan or Campbeltown.

It has been asked: why go to Hunters-ton? Some people have said that the reason for industrialising Hunterston is to bring in Labour voters to North Ayrshire. When I was prospective Labour candidate for Bute and North Ayrshire it was said that the only way I could defeat the hon. Member for that constituency was by getting more industrial workers to the area. That is not the reason for putting forward this project.

The reason is the same as that which Alfred Nobel had when he placed his munitions factory in the area. It is the only deep-water site with adequate flat land behind it available for development in the Garnock Valley and the Irvine Valley, in the whole western area of the United Kingdom. As the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward Taylor) has said it is one of only six such areas on the coastline of Western Europe. We have not picked Hunterston without a good reason. We think we have to go there to utilise this unique asset. We were told that we were on the periphery of the United Kingdom. Now we are on the periphery of Europe. For the first time we have a natural asset possessed by very few other areas in the United Kingdom or Europe.

I am surprised that we should even be debating this tonight. We should be congratulating the Clyde Port Authority on coming forward with the scheme. We should be congratulating the Government on supporting it. Together with another unique asset on the other side of our coastline, North Sea oil, Scotland could become, either as part of the United Kingdom or as a sovereign State, one of the richest and most powerful industrial areas in Western Europe.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mrs. MacDonald) on her speech. I hope that she will send a copy of it to some of her Scottish Nationalist Party friends in Bute and North Ayrshire and to her party's candidate for that seat. It is time that he started supporting the policies that she has put forward on behalf of her party. I received very little support, as the Labour candidate in that area, from members of the SNP. At the last election the party campaigned against the industrialisation of Hunterston. I hope that we have now got a conversion among the Scottish Nationalists and that they are in favour of utilising this great natural and unique asset.

My only criticism is that we are dealing with an iron-ore terminal and associated stockyards. I had hoped that we would be dealing with the whole gamut of the industrialisation of the Hunterston area on the lines proposed at the public inquiry by Ayr County Council. It put forward plans for an iron-ore terminal with an associated integrated steel mill of annual capacity of 12,000 tons, an oil terminal with associated refineries and a petrochemical works. Unfortunately, we are not discussing this tonight. I hope that by making this start with the iron-ore terminal we will provoke a reaction and will get all of the things which Ayr County Council wanted.

This terminal was approved by the Secretary of State in December 1970 after one of the longest public inquiries in Scotland's history. But that was not the start. The concept of Hunterston arose in 1968 when Colville's came forward with the scheme to revitalise the Scottish steel industry and develop a new, integrated plant at Hunterston. Often I feel despondent when people ask me when we are to get such a development. We have been on this since 1968, and sometimes I think it will be delayed until we get a Labour Government. Now, following the longest public inquiry in the history of Scotland, we are seeing tonight the start of this industrialisation.

Some Conservative Members have said that only a certain group of people are in favour of this project, but that is not true. The whole of Scotland is in favour. Scottish public opinion is in favour of developing Hunterston. The Scottish Council for Development and Industry favoured it in its two "Oceanspan" reports, and the latest report by Professor Nicholl, of Strathclyde University, "A Future for Scotland", emphasises the need for development at Hunterston. The whole concept of "Oceanspan" was that of using the Clyde as the entrance and the exit of Europe.

The Scottish TUC and its spokesman on steel, Arthur Bell, the Scottish Officer of the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation, have also supported the industrialisation of the Hunterston area. Speaking on behalf of the industrial workers, James Jack, the General Secretary of the STUC, gave evidence in the County Buildings in Ayr on behalf of the project.

Therefore, the whole broad consensus of industry, the Confederation of British Industry and even the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland are in favour of the project. In fact, everyone is in favour of it, with the exception of a small group of people in the West Kilbride area.

I have no objection to people complaining that their lives will be affected by industrialisation. In much the same way, I am concerned with the development of the new town of Irvine, where we are trying to superimpose a new town on existing communities; this creates great problems. When I used to go through Glasgow as a Glasgow teacher travelling around Charing Cross every morning and evening, I saw a different sight from the concrete jungle which now gives quick access from the south to the north of Glasgow. The building of this jungle meant the displacement of thousands of Glasgow people and businesses, but we did not hear a complaint then from people in the West Kilbride-Fairlie area that it was against the general interests of the people of Scotland. I do not mind people fighting on their own individual grounds but they should not confuse their feelings with the general feelings of the people of Scotland.

The first group against these industrial developments was the North Ayrshire coastal development committee, based mainly on West Kilbride. At that time, we were dealing solely with the immediate danger of the application by the Chevron Oil Company to build a terminal and refinery opposite West Kilbride. There was a consequent upsurge from the middle class in West Kilbride, but now they have dropped out of the fight. That committee has been suspended, and we are now getting information from the Fairlie Action Committee. Now the immediate danger in respect of development is an iron-ore terminal not in the West Kilbride area but in the Fairlie area. So we are dealing with objections from very few people, and that is why I hope that the Government will push through with this proposal as a start.

Going up the Clyde on Monday I saw how this area will develop. On the Clyde now, between The Cumbraes and Largs, some of the largest tankers in the world are being unloaded. They should have been going into the great port of Rotterdam. Unfortunately, because of the Arab embargo, they cannot, so they are lying in the deep sheltered waters between The Cumbraes and the coast and the oil is being trans-shipped to smaller vessels to go to the ports and refineries along the English coast, which cannot accommodate the larger ships.

The only thing that I am afraid of is how Scotland's assets will be treated. The late George Middleton, former General Secretary of the STUC, used to tell me, "It was a strange thing that, during the war, the Tail of the Bank was the main port of the United Kingdom, but after the war it was on the periphery, away from the main centres." I hope that these ships are the forerunners of other ships carrying oil and iron ore, phosphates and the other bulk cargoes which must come if the general purposes port is developed. That is why I am glad to see, for the first time since I entered Parliament in June 1970, some developments along the road towards the full industrialisation of the Hunterston peninsula.