Maggie refused to take action

Documents have revealed Margaret Thatcher dismissed appeals for support to cushion the blow from thousands of job losses at the Ravenscraig steelworks.

Two men walk through the gates of Ravenscraig after the last shift before the plant closed in June 1992

The former Prime Minister was warned by Scottish Secretary Malcolm Rifkind that with losses of up to £100 million expected at British Steel by 1992, the company was expecting to shed at least 1,000 jobs in Scotland.

Writing to Mrs Thatcher in late 1989, in a letter released by the National Archives, the Scottish Secretary said the future of the steel industry north of the Border was “in considerable doubt” despite British Steel forecasting a profit of £733m in 1990.

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Mr Rifkind stated the cancellation of new investment had “exacerbated public concern and reinforced the belief that the company is moving towards the closure of Ravenscraig with the loss of all 2,700 jobs”.

He wrote asking for resources to help Motherwell cope with the devastating economic impact. However, in the margin of his letter, Mrs Thatcher wrote: “No action is called for. Mr Rifkind is simply putting down another marker for his concerns for the future of steel in Scotland.”

British Steel announced it was closing the hot strip mill at Ravenscraig in May 1990, with the loss of 770 jobs, and ultimately the entire site would be shut in 1992.

The consequential job losses for the closure of both Ravenscraig and the Clydesdale Tube Works were put at about 3000, with a further 10,000 indirect jobs estimated to have been lost.