Paying the price of a failure to diversify

The decline of the offshore industry has been a painful experience for all those who have lost their jobs, particularly as it is quite clear this recession is for real.

“There is no way back from this one, unlike earlier ones,” a senior figure in the oil and gas sector told me.

This being the case, I hope on behalf of all those families who have been affected that some other form of employment will soon be available to them. My wish for them is, however, unlikely to come to fruition, given the poor record the region has in diversifying.

When the industry was at its peak there was a golden opportunity to look to the future and introduce an imaginative programme of diversity, but instead the region, including the two local authorities Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, sat on their collective hands and simply lauded the fact that “we have oil.” A stance I have found prevailing in the sector where well-paid staff were not encouraged to look to the future. A grave error as it now transpires.

I am equally unhappy to hear the emotive language being used by commentators, including trade unionists who were talking about potential suicides among redundant workers. Not only do I regard this a huge insult to those good souls who lost their jobs, but a total failure to understand our industrial history.

We have been here before in various locations and industries throughout the land. Here in Scotland we are no strangers to mass lay-offs.

In recent times we have witnessed the decimation of the mining industry during which there was no other employment, nor was there an adequate benefit system of back up as human misery abounded in a number of communities in and around the central belt.

The car and steel workers were similarly affected, even in my native Borders the textile industry has been nearly wiped out, and yet nowhere in that area do I hear talk of taking lives among those who are now looking for new employment.

The other side of the coin when we had an oil rich set-up was the lack of sympathy the industry had for others who were either unemployed, or in low-paid jobs.

No, it is time to grow up and square up to the situation currently facing us. Whingeing was never the North-east way. Instead we should be viewing it as an opportunity to re-build and look to the future.

Finally, I am sad to report that one of my oldest regular readers passed away last week at the wonderful age of 92. Margaret Clubb, or Peggy as she was better known, was a lovely, beautifully turned out lady who was happy to admit she read this column. The least I can do is give her an honourable mention.