Billionaire rules out saving steel jobs as unions launch petition

The Tata Steel Plant in Scunthorpe. A reader criticises Michael Heseltine's comments about the steel industry. See letter
The Tata Steel Plant in Scunthorpe. A reader criticises Michael Heseltine's comments about the steel industry. See letter
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SCOTTISH billionaire Jim McColl has ruled out taking over the country’s last steelworks.

The businessman stepped in to keep commercial shipbuilding alive in Scotland when he saved Ferguson shipyard in Port Glasgow last year.

Tata Steel announced this week that its Scottish sites - Dalzell in Motherwell and Clydebridge in Cambuslang - are to be mothballed with the loss of 270 jobs.

The Scottish Government has promised to do everything in its power to secure the future of the industry in a similar pledge to that made when the future of shipbuilding was endangered.

On that occasion, Mr McColl stepped in and has set out plans to expand the business with a number of large contracts already secured.

In an interview with the Scottish Daily Express, the 63-year-old said he does not think the steel industry can be saved by a “smaller entrepreneurial approach”.

He told the newspaper: “The short answer is no. We’ve got quite a lot on our plate just now. We’ve invested in the shipbuilding business and there’s a lot of activity going on there just now.

“I haven’t been approached by the Scottish Government at all.

“I think Tata Steel is a very competent organisation, If they can’t make it work, there’s a structural problem here - I don’t think it is the kind of business that a smaller entrepreneurial approach is going to fix.

“This is a large-scale industry and it needs a lot of investment. One of the problems is that we don’t have a level playing field with other countries.”

Tata, which is also cutting 900 jobs in Scunthorpe, blamed a ‘’flood’’ of cheap imports, particularly from China, a strong pound and high electricity prices for the problems facing the industry.

The latest blow follows the loss of 2,200 jobs in Redcar at the SSI steel plant.

Mr McColl told the Express: “I do get frustrated when I hear about businesses like Tata disappearing because there’s a lot of people in there who have steel-making in their blood.

“They’ve got a lot of skills - it’s just a shame to lose these skills. It’s heartbreaking for the people who are going to be out of a job - what do they do?”

Meanwhile, Thousands of people have signed petitions calling on the government to step in to protect jobs at a steel plant in Scunthorpe, it was reported.

Tata Steel announced on Tuesday it was shedding 900 jobs.

The company has pledged £3m to help create jobs in the town while another £6m will be provided by the government.

However, unions say more needs to be done and earlier gathered in the town to collect more signatures.

Steel worker Tony Gosling said: “We’re asking people to sign our petition and continue to give us their warmth and love that they have given us so far in our plight.

“There’s an online petition which has collected over 6,000 signatures, there’s a national petition which has collected over 16,000 and on paper we estimate we’ve collected nearly 5,000.”