As I See It: The Prime Minister holds the key to Alexander Dennis’s future, but there is more at stake if the parties fail to work together, says TERRY MURDEN
Boris Johnson has made it known how the “broad shoulders” of the UK helped pay the wages of thousands of workers furloughed through the pandemic. He now has to broaden them a little more by fulfilling a pledge made in February that will save hundreds of threatened bus factory jobs.
Only months ago, Alexander Dennis in Falkirk was riding high with a record year of sales built on the benefits of its investment in technology, products and new markets.
All that could be lost as the coronavirus drives passengers away and eats into the order book.
The solution to saving jobs rests on the £3 billion Mr Johnson committed to building “at least 4,000 zero emission buses”. It is surely a no-brainer. Saving jobs, supporting the environment, proving that the union really is a force for good.
A cross-party group of MPs last week wrote to the Prime Minister to demand he follows through with his pledge and gives the bus system a sustainable future.
It can’t come soon enough. Scotland is in the middle of a potential jobs meltdown that requires urgent attention. Rolls-Royce, British Airways, Menzies Aviation, numerous hotels and restaurant chains and even new companies such as travel search engine Skyscanner are poised to axe thousands of jobs.
Some will be hard to prevent. The slump in hospitality and travel looks like taking a lot of people with it, yet the crisis at Alexander Dennis is preventable, or at least manageable.
The slump in passenger numbers caused by the pandemic is a factor in the cutbacks, but the green agenda and the need for cleaner buses is a long term ambition around the world. Britain should be creating jobs in the new clean technologies, not seeing them disappear.
ADL has the skills to build the buses of tomorrow, but it needs quick decisions from government to enable it to happen. Scottish Labour, as would be expected, is ramping up pressure for action along with SNP MPs in Westminster and the trade unions.
‘While Holyrood and Westminster trade insults, the country’s economy steadily disintegrates’
But it is all too fragmented and too much time is being spent scoring points on Twitter over petty issues such as the PM’s choice of photo opportunity in Orkney, or the SNP making money out of branded face masks (so do many organisations). While Holyrood and Westminster trade insults, the country’s economy steadily disintegrates.
Over the lockdown period there has been much talk of a unified response to the Covid emergency. A similar consensus is needed around the economic recovery.
The SNP leadership needs to order its more antagonistic supporters to cool down and offer to work in tandem with Westminster and the Tories instead of continually mauling everything they say and do.
Scottish Tories instead of spending so much time wagging fingers at the SNP government should ensure their boss in Downing Street backs up his promises by putting words into action. A letter of their own reminding him about his pledge on 4,000 buses would be a start.