The dispute over grangemouth oil refinery is a taste of things to come. Some ninety millions of pounds could be lost each day for at least six days, as it takes that long to shut down and restart the oilfield. Oil supplies, and the supplies of gas, to the North of England and Scotland, could run down dramatically.

The cause of the dispute is not complex. Some years ago, British petroleum sold the forties field to an American company, ironically named Apache. No cowboys there then. The refinery and pipelines are owned by Ineos investments.

Ineos is a private equity firm with around nine billion euros of debt. Its strategy, as with so many firms feeling the pinch as oil supplies run down and stagflation begins to bite, is to screw its workers by ending their pension scheme. The DNA of the Transport and General (my own union)--an old Leviathan that recently merged into a bigger Union--has passed into the workers' new representatives. They are not having it.

Now, even the oilmen and industry experts over at the oil drum are questioning whether it is sensible to have vital energy infrastructure in the hands of a private equity firm.

The Transport and General once did this country a great service by providing it with Ernest Bevin, the greatest Foreign Secretary and Labour Minister it ever had, and a vital ally of Winston Churchill in the fight against the Nazis. Now it may show the way again.

If Ineos gives up the ghost because it can't beat its own workers, given the precedent of Northern Rock, the government is going to have to contemplate placing the energy infrastructure of the British oilfields in social ownership.

Put the oilfield in a partnership-based company in the hands of its workers and under the control of industry experts. Get ready for peak oil. Get Scottish nationalists to acknowledge that either they do this or they depend on English subsidy, which Alex Salmond would have had to do this week if Wendy Alexander was not so intellectually bankrupt and inept. And salute the grand old song of the T&G.

What a bonnie day. Here's a nice Scottish version of the Internationale. The third verse, I think, starts 'no saviour from on high delivers', with which I am not in agreement. But if Joseph Plunkett could see blood upon the rose whilst fighting alongside James Connolly, and if Isaiah could hold that on earth, god's work is done by the hands of men, the rest of the tune can carry me away.


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