Davie had been there, leaning against the back wall, near the perimeter fence of the yard, under the shelter of the building’s canopy, watching, when the visitor had arrived. Not into politics at all, no way sir. Life is too short for that stuff. They are all only in it for what they can get anyway. It’s no’ like the auld days. There’s nane of them Jimmy Reid, that’s for sure. He’d watched.
The black fleet car had arrived in the rain, coming to a halt quickly, and a flunkey in a dark suit had held out an umbrella as the small red suited woman stepped from the rear door and in to the large shed.
Gingerly walking across the puddles in the carpark Davie followed the crowd of boiler suited workers as they entered the space which was normally alive with the sounds of production, forklifts buzzing around the space, and hydraulic machinery, and spread out with his workmates around the small platform which had been placed in the centre of the shed.
If anything she looked smaller than she did on the telly. There had been cutback after cutback, reductions in workforce, closure of some of the older sections of the workshop. The papers had been full of it just before last Christmas. Doom and gloom. His wife Sandra had told him not to worry, something would come up. He’d had many sleepless nights, mortgage not yet near finished, grandweans he’d promised a trip to Disney. They’ll be happy wae a week at my sister’s caravan at Burntisland Sandra had promised. We’ll manage.
Anyway, he was still in a job, for now. He listened as she cleared her throat, standing next to the managing director and the union contingent, and began to address the assembled workforce, in that measured way that she does. A good speaker, his auld faither had called her, from his seat in his care home Parker Knoll in front of the goggle box for the news each night.
Some of his colleagues were laughing now, she’d made a joke, perhaps to break the ice. He hadn’t quite caught it, but his mates had, and they were laughing. He could hear her now. Talking of the long distinguished history of the yard, of their reputation, of their expertise and experience in their field. She was right, they were good at what they did, so why were they in trouble? Some in the room and two or three of the young apprentices, laddies and lassies, were nodding now, in agreement with her.
He watched as she cleared her throat again, and then started to speak once more, this time with a smile on her face. He couldn’t believe what she was saying at first. It would take a bit of time to sink in. A rescue plan was being put in place, fully supported by government, including a commitment to cut business rates. A taskforce was being set up to work towards ensuring that the plant remained competitive and attractive to investors. Negotiations had taken place during recent ministerial visits to two European Union partner countries which had generated additional provisional export orders ensuring that full manufacturing capacity would be kept running for at least the next four years.
The looks on the faces of the assembled workforce were a picture. Davie wished he’d had his phone handy. He’d have taken a snap for posterity. Tam and Andy, there as long as him, they’d all came in as apprentices the gither, clapped each other, and him, on the back, grinning from ear to ear. Andy’s wife Karen had been ill, really ill, and was now thankfully on the mend, her lengthy treatment successful. That cruise Andy had joked about for years with her, and had quietly saved for, might actually now happen.
Fair play to her. A politician making commitments like that, he thought. She’s got baws.
She had finished now and was in amongst them. Talking with some of the guys from the stores, and the younger apprentices. Small of stature, he kept seeing her disappear and re-appear amongst the throng as she worked her way easily and comfortably thorough the assembled workers. There were the inevitable selfies, some of the young team getting the phones out for a snap with her. He’d seen a jibe about her once that described her as the ‘selfie queen’. On this occasion, when big Wullie Black from the fitters shop called the troops from the production line together to stand beside her for a phoatie Davie was more than happy to oblige.
Glancing out through the window Davie recognised a few faces from the telly amongst the small posse of photographers and journalists awaiting her departure from the shed. They looked bored and underwhelmed at being kept waiting, at least they were dry, the rain having stopped.
Heading home that night the good news was still sinking in. Whistling as he came up the front path Sandra, who’d just came in five minutes before him, met him at the door with a hug and a kiss. “ I heard” she said, with a smile. “ Sit doon and put the telly on, we’ll order a takeaway, we’re no’ cooking the night.”
Settling in his usual spot on the settee Davie pressed the remote button just in time for the news. “Good evening, and in tonight’s Scottish news, heartbreak for workers at one of Scotland’s oldest manufacturing works as the Scottish Government admit that they can’t say with any certainty that the plant will stay open longer than the next four years. We have the Secretary of State for Scotland on the line to discuss this latest blow to Scotland’s industry, but first to our reporter on the scene. Martin, is this worrying announcement today something that the Scottish government can recover from?”
Davie was astonished, his eyes widening. Shaking his head he called Sandra in to the room. ‘Look at this. That’s not how it was. I was there…..”