British Steel was privatised by Margaret Thatcher's government in 1988. In the mid-70s, under the previous Labour government of Jim Callaghan, British Steel (now loss-making), faced cutbacks. Subsequent governments were obliged, under EU rules, to withdraw subsidies. Major changes resulted across Europe including in the UK.
A file on Ravenscraig, released by the Scottish Government and the National Archives of Scotland some 15 years before the normal 30-year limit, shows the desperate efforts of Scottish ministers in the early 1990s, to limit the fallout from the closure of the steelworks. For those interested in the history of steel making in Scotland these documents will provide invaluable information.
British Steel told officials the north Lanarkshire site was at risk weeks before the official announcement in January 1992, prompting a warning to John Major that at least 1200 jobs were at risk. Ian Lang, the then Scottish secretary, was advised by officials to tell British Steel executives the closure would be seen as a betrayal of Scottish workers and the company was pressured by ministers to honour it's privatisation agreement by trying to sell the site rather than shutting it down.
Mr Lang was also advised to press British Steel to release full details of the commercial case for closure. It was suggested he seek alternatives such as leaving the site ticking over until the market improved. Concerns were also raised by officials at that time about the cost of decommissioning the site - something which has blighted the area for many years now.
British Steel had been expected to operate at the site until 1994, but pre-tax profits had fallen from £307m to £19m leading to the decision to axe the plant.
The file shows that the then Tory government did try to save the total closure of the plant yet Labour perpetuate the myth that the Tories destroyed the last of Scotland's heavy industry.
British Steel was bought by Corus, (now part of the Tata Group), which closed their Teeside plant, with a loss of 1600 jobs, earlier this year and moved production to India. Gordon Brown's government could not save it.