Older Industrial Areas – Westminster Hall debate


Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) (SNP):
I thank the hon. Member for Easington (Grahame M. Morris) for securing this important debate. I represent a constituency that includes several older industrial areas and bounds other areas in Glasgow and South Lanarkshire with a huge industrial legacy. The legacy comes with real, long-standing issues of contaminated, vacant and derelict land that prevent economic initiatives from happening and private capital from being invested, because the cost of cleaning up the land is astronomical.

Clyde Gateway is an urban regeneration company in my constituency that covers Glasgow and South Lanarkshire. It is a partnership with Scottish Enterprise and the Scottish Government. In the seven years since its establishment, Clyde Gateway has made ready for use 200 hectares of previously derelict and contaminated land, some of which had been derelict for 50 years and a serious blight on the area. Clyde Gateway found that the derelict land was contaminated with, for example, chromium, which is hugely toxic. It had to develop techniques to extract the chromium before it could do anything with the land.

When power stations in other parts of my constituency were taken out of production, they were simply demolished and the land was not cleared or made ready for use. Clyde Gateway’s contractors found sluices, underground works and all kinds of things when they examined the land. No private industry could ever have taken on the cost of cleaning that up. It therefore falls to agencies such as Clyde Gateway, to local authorities and to Government to invest in the land and make it ready for use, so that jobs can be brought into the area.

Unless we tackle such long-standing issues within communities, nothing else can happen. That is true of my own area and of many other parts of post-industrial Scotland. The area in Motherwell where Ravenscraig steelworks used to stand had serious contamination to deal with before anything else could happen.

Clyde Gateway’s work over the past seven years has brought £100 million of public and private investment into the area, as well as jobs, and it has created 40,000 square metres of business space in the east end of Glasgow and Rutherglen. That is absolutely amazing. It is key that such work in post-industrial communities is seen as an investment, because if we do not invest, nothing will happen and the neglect will continue. In Scotland, the latest vacant and derelict land survey figures show that there are 10,874 hectares of vacant and derelict land in cities and rural settings, causing a serious issue for those communities, who have no means to deal with it. Serious investment is needed to overcome the huge problem of post-industrial legacies.

The Scottish Government’s regeneration capital grant fund works with local communities on what they would like to see in their areas and what projects could bring investment, new life and jobs to industrial areas. That fund has been a real success. Despite having an annual budget of only £25 million, it has been very popular and was quickly oversubscribed. Twenty-two projects across Scotland are already being supported. It is absolutely right to ask local communities, “What would you like to see? How can we help?”

In my constituency, there have been changes over time to the fabric of the area. I say “fabric” because the area’s street names—Muslin Street and Cotton Street, for example—reference its former industries. There were dyeworks and the famous Templeton carpet factory in the area. All those heavy industries have now gone. Some of the land has been filled with housing, while other parts lie empty and are waiting to be dealt with. The industries have not failed to leave scars.

Something more positive in the Glasgow and Clyde valley area is the city deal that was negotiated with local authorities, the Scottish Government and the UK Government under the previous Administration. The deal has the potential to bring huge benefits, with local authorities working together across the areas that bear the scars of past heavy industry. We need to collaborate and find ways to work together to deal with such long-standing issues. Many people viewing things from outside just see that there is derelict land; they do not see what is underneath. There is a need for investment to create jobs and overcome the barriers. It is not as simple as saying, “There is a post-industrial area; throw some money at it.” The land must be made ready for use by private and public industry. It means investing a huge amount of money in holes in the ground, but that must be done before the areas in question can move forward.

I thank the hon. Member for Easington for securing this important debate. We should learn from each other about what is happening in different areas, and about what we can take back to our constituencies to tackle long-standing issues.