An Open Letter to The Scottish Government and Glasgow Election Candidates

The Future of Govan Graving Docks

Dear Election Candidates

In a matter of weeks Scotland will go to the polls to elect MSPs for a new parliamentary term. Some of you may be elected / re-elected and some of you may not.

Our current Scottish Government has expressed in the past a commitment to re-industrialising Scotland – an ambitious goal that will depend primarily on the right infrastructure being in place.

You may or may not be aware of the conversation that has started to build around the derelict Govan Graving Docks in Glasgow and the campaign for their restoration. What The Clyde Docks Preservation Initiative is starting to find through its conversations is a groundswell of traction building behind the idea of a working commercial dry dock forming part of a maritime heritage centre / heritage park at Govan Graving Docks.

In the context of reindustrialising Scotland I feel it is very important we preserve and protect the infrastructure that could form the basis of any future maritime industry strategy on the Clyde Corridor and with a shortage of dry dock facilities Govan Graving Docks could have a key role in that. Many of the ferries operating on the West Coast of Scotland are being sent further afield for maintenance because of a shortage of dry dock facilities. Surely it would be better if more of the maintenance work on the ferry fleets operating in the region could be done on the Clyde.

This is the kind of development that could bring long-term skilled work into Govan alongside what we propose to develop as a co working hub for micro-enterprise and social enterprises, to enable young people from the area to create their own opportunities, but within a supportive environment. This is something that would last much longer than temporary construction jobs created by development of executive flats akin to Glasgow Harbour where anecdotally many properties lie empty.

If what maritime infrastructure there is remaining on the Clyde is destroyed, to make way for housing developments, this will greatly undermine any prospects for future development of this industry. Thus the existing infrastructure must be protected, not just in Govan but all along the Clyde and nationwide. The Clyde Docks Preservation Initiative is committed to doing all it can to encourage the protection of maritime/marine assets though it may be that legislation will be required to protect the maritime infrastructure in the region from being disposed of to private developers.

Consultation exercises by The Clyde Docks Preservation Initiative have found almost universal opposition to housing development at Govan Graving Docks. We are currently running a more comprehensive survey to gauge the wider views on the future of the site.

An initial estimate on conceptual proposals for a heritage centre at Govan Graving Docks is that capacity could be created for over 250 permanent jobs and small trading opportunities. This does not include what would be required to operate a commercial dry dock.

A commercial dry dock as part of a shipbuilding heritage centre would enable people to see the process of ship repair as part of a heritage attraction – but in the context of modern maritime industry as well as learning about the history.

With the right strategic approach and the political will from the Scottish Government in the next term, there is no reason why the Clyde and the wider west coast could not in time become a global hub for high-tech maritime industries and smaller shipping. More joined-up thinking is needed across all sectors to realise the full potential of the region.

Iain McGillivray
Executive Director, The Clyde Docks Preservation Initiative

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