THE all-capitals, front-page headlines in this newspaper on July 30 and 31, 1971, conveyed urgency and drama.

July 30: “6000 TO BE AXED AT UCS”. Shock news had been delivered in the Commons that the Upper Clyde yards of Clydebank and Scotstoun were doomed. Seven out of 10 UCS workers would lose their current jobs. Ted Heath, the Prime Minister, said it was “absolutely right” that the consortium should come to an end. Liquidation of the group would proceed by court order.

July 31: “GOVERNMENT IN DILEMMA AS MEN STAY PUT”. The workers had taken over the yards; and Heath’s cabinet, said the Glasgow Herald, now had to decide “whether to turn a blind eye and hope that the workers will soon tire of their new role or try somehow to return control to the liquidator. The men say they are staying put”.

After meeting the liquidator, Robert C Smith, at UCS headquarters at Linthouse, a workers’ delegation issued a statement: “Nothing has been accepted. Nothing has been discussed. This is a new era in British history. The stewards will decide what will be built, whether it will go out of the Clyde when it is built – everything”. Tony Benn, opposition spokesman for industry and technology, declared: “This is a historical moment” and said he was witnessing the birth of industrial democracy.

The work-in made headlines at home and abroad. Shop steward Jimmy Reid addressed the workers at Clydebank.

They were not strikers, but responsible people, he told them, and he famously warned them that during the occupation “there will be no hooliganism, no vandalism.There will be no ‘bevying’ because the world is watching us and it will be up to us to conduct ourselves with responsibility and maturity”.

On August 3 Trade and Industry Secretary John Davies and Scots Secretary Gordon Campbell took part in talks in Glasgow on the UCS crisis.

* More tomorrow

Read more: Herald Diary