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16 October 2014
Social Change: Employment 1945 to 1979

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Shipbuilding till 1979

Photograph of street signs

Photograph of street signs

Scotland's shipbuilding industry became important in the 19th century, as steam-power began to replace sail power. Scottish inventors and engineers gained a reputation for being experts in marine engineering. Around 1850, the shipyards of Glasgow and Dumbarton were building half the iron steamships built in the United Kingdom. In the 1880s steel began to replace iron in the same way that iron had been replacing wood in the River Clyde's shipyards.

Shipbuilding companies on the River Clyde grew bigger as they won orders from all over the world. Shipbuilding created thousands of jobs in the production of everything from coal, iron and steel to the supply and fitting of ships with plumbing, carpets, linoleum and furnishings.

Between both world wars, Scotland's shipbuilding industry began to decline. Foreign competition, a lack of orders for new ships and reduced spending on the Royal Navy made it difficult for Scottish shipyards to win orders for new ships. Many smaller shipyards closed.

After 1945, countries like Germany and Japan were unable to compete with British shipyards because their yards had been destroyed during the war. There was a brief revival in Scottish shipbuilding.

From 1960, Scottish shipbuilding faced growing problems. Foreign shipyards had invested in new technology and enclosed all-weather shipyards. Scottish shipyards suffered from poor industrial relations and gained a reputation for the late delivery of completed ships due to frequent strikes. Also, many foreign shipbuilders received huge subsidies from their governments which enabled them to win orders that might have gone to Scottish shipyards.

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