It's a tragic scene. I guess Harland and Wolff over in Belfast is still going strong.
Are you trying to start a sectarian war, Russ?
Yeah, the Clyde is one of many areas that has flourished and then died from the terminal decline of pretty much a single industry; the Tyne didn't fare any better. The problem isn't just that industries reach saturation point, the killer punch comes from the fact that there is always another country willing and able to supply labour for less money. In the case of ships, I believe that the decline was due to many reasons, not least of all the facts that airfreight became much more ubiquitous and affordable, and that many companies went in for the establishment of local production lines overseas, reducing the need to ship export by any means. And when you reach a point where the greatest export you have is 'services', who needs trains, boats and 'planes anyway?
Australia has just announced the demise of its remaining car factory, the main reason seems to be that the labour costs are now too high because of the current strength of the Australian buck. I seem to remember that Britain lost a Japanese car company recently, too, because of the relative value of the pound to other currencies (and it's still woefully low to what it was some years ago; trust me, I feel it every time I have to import some pounds). That Germany was able to mount a huge export market even though the mark was so strong (pre Euro, of course) sort of gives the lie to high labour costs as being essential killers: the truth seems to lie in productivity
, value for the money.
Confidence is a huge factor too; few seem to doubt the German will to work and deliver on contracts, something that we in Britain were woeful at doing - we paid out zillions on various union-induced and investment-starved contract late-delivery penalties. So who, with the choice, would invest in our late heavy industries? And there's the rub: customers generally do have choice.
A parallel of sorts can be drawn with places such as Mallorca, where the only viable industry now is tourism, with more developed countries where dependency on one product will grow an area until it kills it, too. Mallorca had some leather works - jackets and shoes that all tourists bought because of price, style and great value for the money. I don't think shoe manufacture features in any meaningful way now: in a word - China. Whither Silicon Valley in a couple of decades? Or, for that matter, the Silicone Valleys of Hollywood?
Same with individual businesses: from fashion, which was dying locally due to the constant buying up of Scottish knitwear companies by English giants or by cheaper manufacturing by those same Scottish companies in Hong Kong, for example, I moved to calendars. Too many eggs in a few fragile baskets, I know that now and I knew it then; the problem was: what other business was around that I wanted to do or was capable of doing? Not so easy. You can develop a business niche, but sure can't invent one. But wait; didn't that happen with Kodak? (Write your own digital epitaph?)
The only constant is change; we can't beat that, and preparing for it requires the co-operation of too many disparate interests for success. I think we have to die in order to be born again.