THE looming loss of nearly 400 jobs with the planned closure of US electronics company Texas Instruments’ plant at Greenock is, without doubt, a bodyblow to the Inverclyde economy.

This sizeable semiconductor plant, probably still better known locally as NatSemi, had until this week’s unexpected closure announcement stood out as a real survivor in the wake of a raft of shutdowns of major electronics manufacturing operations in Scotland in the last two decades.

But Texas Instruments, which acquired National Semiconductor in 2011, has now decided it wishes to transfer the production undertaken by the skilled workforce at Greenock to Germany, Japan and the US.

What is clear from the rationale spelled out by Texas Instruments on Wednesday is that its decision to close the plant is not in any way a reflection of the performance or commitment of its Greenock employees. Rather, the site is not as efficient as others operated by the company around the globe.

Indeed, Texas Instruments acknowledged its employees at Greenock had done everything they could to keep the plant open.

While it is absolutely right that the US company should praise the efforts of its hard-working staff at Greenock, its words are likely to be cold comfort for the hundreds of employees who are faced with losing their jobs as manufacturing work is transferred elsewhere over the next three years.

Greenock benefited greatly in the boom days of electronics manufacturing, when computer giant IBM had huge production operations in the town.

Even the most pessimistic would have struggled to forecast the scale and speed of the decline in large-scale electronics manufacturing in Scotland within the last two decades. Many huge operations that had for so long provided such valuable employment in Scotland have been axed as multinationals based elsewhere have rationalised their global manufacturing activities.

The huge Motorola plant at Bathgate was closed early in the new millennium, with the loss of thousands of jobs. And Freescale Semiconductor closed its wafer fabrication plant at East Kilbride – a facility established by Motorola in 1969. There have been so many other major and painful closures.

Much of the manufacturing work previously undertaken at Scottish plants has gone to low-cost economies, although, it is worth observing, this is not the case with the proposed relocation of manufacturing activity from Greenock to Germany, Japan and the US by Texas Instruments.

Greenock and the wider Inverclyde economy have already suffered greatly amid this grim decline in large-scale electronics manufacturing in Scotland. IBM’s presence in Greenock, for example, has reduced dramatically over the years.

Texas Instruments, announcing plans to close its Greenock plant, described the facility as “small” and “older” in comparison to its “more cost-effective” plants in Germany, Japan and Maine.

The company said: “Even with a considerable investment, TI’s factory in Greenock would be far less efficient than our other larger, more efficient fabs, which have open capacity available to absorb what’s produced in Greenock.”

Such major decisions by multinationals are, unfortunately, a fact of life in our increasingly globalised economy. And they have been seen a lamentable number of times as large-scale electronics manufacturing in Scotland has been moved elsewhere.

Increasing globalisation is now a fact of everyday life. And we feel its effects in positive as well as negative ways.

The attraction of overseas talent is, rightly, seen as an important part of Scotland’s future economic success.

On the other hand, many jobs have been lost in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK with the transfer of work in various sectors to often lower-cost locations overseas.

The start of 2016 has been dominated by worries about the slowdown in growth in China – something that in decades past would have been unlikely to unnerve global financial markets and weigh so heavily on oil prices and indirectly on the North Sea.

Chancellor George Osborne has flagged global threats to the UK economy. And UK growth, at just 0.5 per cent in the fourth quarter, is already stuck well below its long-term average.

Particularly in these difficult economic times, we should not underestimate the impact of the planned closure of the Texas Instruments plant at Greenock on an Inverclyde economy that does not have its challenges to seek on the unemployment front.

The Scottish Government has signalled it will do all it can to try to avert the planned closure. However, without wishing to be defeatist, history tells us that multinationals tend not to change their minds after announcing such major moves.

Texas Instruments said it was “attempting to sell and transfer the facility as an ongoing manufacturing operation”. History would also suggest this is an unlikely eventuality.

Assuming the closure goes ahead, the Scottish Government must focus on doing everything it can to maximise the employment prospects of Texas Instruments’ committed workforce at Greenock. It has a little bit of time in this regard, with the US company saying it does not expect any job losses associated with the planned factory closure to happen before late 2017.

Gerry McCarthy, Texas Instruments’ Greenock site manager, emphasised the company’s understanding of the impact the closure could have on employees and the community.

Many people have been working hard on regeneration projects in Greenock, and in the wider Inverclyde economy, from big waterfront developments to the creation of top-notch artificial football pitches for community use.

Much of this hard work has resulted from the endeavours of people at the most local of levels.

In contrast, Texas Instruments has made no bones about the fact that its decision to close its Greenock plant has been “taken with our global operations in mind”.

Hopefully, the Scottish Government and those who are passionate about the local community will do their utmost to mitigate the impact of this bitter blow.

But the sad fact of the matter is that, assuming the closure goes ahead, the impact of Texas Instruments’ global decision will be felt very painfully at the most local of levels.