Excerpts from an interview with Charles Scott, which was transmitted on the BBC Scottish Home Service on 3 April 1959.
Programme Title 'In Perspective - Small Shipbuilding'
Charles Scott 1959
Interviewer: By the end of this year, so says a newspaper report, 30 small Scottish shipyards will have launched the last ship on their stocks and will be asking themselves,What now?. For a time, repair work will help them to keep going but, unless something happens to the present doldrums in shipbuilding, small ships, that is, the outlook is bleak. Charles Scott is in the industry and he is now in the studio. Mr Scott, briefly, why the slump?
Mr Scott: Well, I think so far as the small ships are concerned, the boats carrying the cargoes are getting bigger, where boats, 7 or 800 tons of cargo used to be carried, ships are now carrying 2 to 3 thousand tons of cargo and that cuts down the number of ships necessary to carry the cargo.
Interviewer: Any other reasons?
Mr Scott: Then the coal to Ireland which was a big trade at one time from the West Coast of Scotland, most of that coal now is coming in large ships, as I understand it, into the ports of Ireland and being distributed throughout the country by lorry.
Interviewer: So that there is less of, say, coasting trade round Ireland?
Mr Scott: There's less of a coasting trade direct between the U.K. and Ireland, yes.
Interviewer: Now the aftermath of the war, Korea, Suez and that sort of thing, was there a sort of artificial build-up of ships there which are now redundant?
Mr Scott: I don't think that really applied to the coasting trade to the same extent as it did the large ships.
Interviewer: Is foreign competition very fierce in this field?
Mr Scott: Yes, foreign competition is very severe at the moment, the Continental yards are quoting very keen prices, much keener prices than there were even one or two years ago.
Interviewer: How do they manage to do it then?
Mr Scott: Well, that's what I cant understand, I don't know how they manage it, because prices in this country while they may have stabilized over the last six months, they certainly haven't come down, steel went up quite a bit in price, although the last alteration in price was slightly down, but it was very slight compared with the increases that had taken place, and the wages over the last few years have always been in the upward direction.
Interviewer: Do you think perhaps the deliveries are firm over there and the price is firm over there as opposed to perhaps what it is in this country?
Mr Scott: Yes, I think part of the trouble in this country has been that the shipyards have had too many orders and if you are offered a ship to build, you naturally don't turn it down and having too many orders you couldn't give the delivery that the owners would like, but I am not despondent about the future really.
Interviewer: You're not, well, I'm glad to hear that.
Mr Scott: I'm not too optimistic, but I'm not too despondent, I think its up to each yard to get down to things, especially the yards in the Clyde where they're friends over a long number of years, I think if these yards get down to it and produce designs of ships that they think will be attractive to owners, I think you will get enough orders to keep them going, I don't say they will be stacked up with orders the way they have been.
The pictures above and below are of the Hutton Cross, which was a good example of what Mr Scott was talking about when he referred to Yards producing designs of ships that will be attractive to owners. The Hutton Cross was built at Scott's in 1959 (the same year as the interview), and was the first Tug built in the UK with a Voith Schnider propulsion system and bridge controls. Its great strength was the fact that it could turn in its own length and manoeuvre in tight spaces.
Interviewer: You're not suggesting standardisation or anything, is that possible with shipbuilding, can you standardise ships?
Mr Scott: Its very difficult in coasting vessels, because each owner has his own individual ideas, one owner may wish a ship for a certain port where there's not a great deal of water, he'll want a broad boat, shallow draught; another owner may wish to build a boat for a canal, which restricts his length and beam; and its very difficult to standardise, although I think the owners in the future will need to try and adapt to a certain amount of standardisation.
Interviewer: You've been through slumps before, haven't you?
Mr Scott: Yes, I started off in our firm in 1924 and I was just there in the late twenties and the early thirties, and I remember going into the yard and seeing rabbits running around the place - .
Interviewer: But there aren't any rabbits just now?
Mr Scott: No, certainly no, but I don't really think we'll get really as desperate as it was before.
Interviewer: Thank you very much Mr Scott.