RUTH SUNDERLAND: My family of steelworkers built the world. How they would loathe this sell-off
Steel is not just another industry, not to me. It’s in my soul, my blood, my DNA.
Generations of men in my family worked in the blast furnaces on Teesside, including my late father and my maternal granddad.
So when I say I feel for the people of Scunthorpe, a steel town just like my own, it runs deep.
I know that there are thousands of families who have lived through months of agonising fear since British Steel went into receivership in May.
There are some in Teesside too, where it still has around 700 staff, the remnant of an operation that once sustained an entire region.
Steel is not just another industry, not to me. It’s in my soul, my blood, my DNA, writes Ruth Sunderland. (Pictured: A view of British Steel’s plant in Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire, in 2019)
Believe me, then, when I say I understand the relief, even jubilation at the news that the Turkish army pension scheme has offered to buy the business and save those jobs.
But I’m genuinely sorry to say that the deal fills me with a deep sense of unease and foreboding.
My fear is that a Turkish takeover will prove yet another chapter of despair for the gallant steelmen who have endured so much.
The army is, of course, closely tied to President Erdogan, Turkey’s authoritarian leader, who has recently been holding talks over arms deals with Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Generations of men in my family worked in the blast furnaces on Teesside, including my late father and my maternal granddad, writes Ruth Sunderland. (Pictured: The British Steel plant in Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire, pictured in 2019)
Why does the Turkish military, via its pension scheme, want to get its hands on our steel? Is it just an investment, or is another agenda in play?
And why, given we have our own pension funds controlling trillions of pounds of assets, can’t it be sold to one of our own?
Perhaps potential British buyers are influenced by the pervasive myth that steel in this country is dying and not worth propping up.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Despite all the woes inflicted in the past four decades, our manufacturers produce 8million tonnes of high-quality steel a year.
So when I say I feel for the people of Scunthorpe, a steel town just like my own, it runs deep, writes Ruth Sunderland. (Pictured: British Steel’s Scunthorpe plant in 2015)
The industry employs 32,000 people directly and more than 52,000 on top of that in the supply chain.
Of course, the sector is much smaller than in the past. As recently as the early-Seventies, it employed more than 300,000 people, my dad and granddad among them.
The sad reality is we have allowed it to wither away through a combination of short-sighted government policies and shoddy ownership, not through inherent problems with the workforce or the product.
The Scunthorpe steelworks has been passed like a parcel from one unsatisfactory owner to another and there is nothing about the proposed Turkish takeover to suggest this shameful record has changed.