It has been many years since anyone working in the Clyde shipyards has had the luxury of assuming theirs is a job for life.
Even so, speculation about the future of the world-famous Govan shipyard is causing a new wave of concern among workers, all caused by the superficially innocuous decision to remove five cranes from the site.
BAE's decision to ask Clydeport to take down the cranes has led some to conclude the company may intend to close the yard. BAE has already made clear that one of its three yards - Govan, Scotstoun or Portsmouth - will be closed, though has yet publicly to identify which one. The company insists the cranes are being removed simply because they are no longer fit for purpose and that the timing has nothing to do with that impending decision, but workers can be forgiven for feeling jumpy.
There has long been concern about the lack of orders for the yard and what will happen after work is completed on two aircraft carriers.
Still, the yard has much to commend it to BAE, not least the skill and expertise of its workers. Govan shipyard is a hugely important employer in the city and a worthy survivor following years in which Scotland's heavy industry has been in decline.
Closure would be a disaster for workers, and a sad day for Glasgow. It is part of the city's identity and self-image; no-one wants to see it close.
BAE employs about 3000 people in Scotland in total, including 1500 in Govan. What are its intentions? It has been many months now that workers at its three yards have worried about where the axe may fall. If BAE is seriously considering Govan's closure, it must admit it and show willingness to enter into talks with the Scottish and UK Governments about safeguarding the yard. Nicola Sturgeon is right that it should stay its hand and halt the removal of the cranes until such time as it has a clearer idea.
Sadly, the future of the Clyde shipyards has become a political football over the last year, in the run-up to the referendum on independence. Concerns have been expressed that in the event of Scots voting for independence, future defence orders would not be placed on the Clyde but within the remaining UK. Further fears have been expressed that because of the uncertainty caused by the independence referendum, BAE will opt to close a Glasgow yard and keep Portsmouth open.
Such talk does little to help the workers who must be thoroughly weary of the uncertainty. They deserve to have an indication from BAE of what the immediate future holds.
Govan shipyard has a proud history. The former Fairfields yard turned out 19th-century ocean liners the Campania and the Lucania, the largest and fastest liners in the world at their launch, and numerous warships that saw action during two world wars, but it is much more than a piece of living heritage. It is to be hoped that the removal of its ageing cranes proves to be nothing more than belated spring cleaning.
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