Employment, Politics and Culture in Scotland

The project made an original contribution in three related areas of historical debate:

  • on the character of deindustrialisation, through detailed analysis of its employment effects;
  • on the moral economy, focusing on working-class understanding of the legitimacy of industrial change;
  • and on Scotland’s distinct political trajectory within the UK.

The project established that deindustrialisation was long-running, commencing in the 1950s. It was managed carefully by Conservative and especially Labour governments in the 1960s and 1970s, but recklessly by Conservative governments in the 1980s.

Industrial change before the 1970s involved workers in ‘traditional’ sectors being persuaded by policy-makers that moving into higher value-added manufacturing would offer greater security and prosperity.In moral economy terms this was deemed fair.

The subsequent rapid contraction of manufacturing in the 1980s was regarded as unfair, and contributed significantly to Scotland’s political divergence from England, consolidating a move to Labour that commenced in the 1960s, with a related long-term move to the SNP.

The working-class moral economy in Scotland, shaped by popular experience of deindustrialisation, and favouring state intervention to maintain collective security, remains an influential force in the 2020s. 


Leverhulme Trust (1 April 2017 to 31 March 2020)

The project team

Professor Jim Phillips, Principal Investigator

Professor Jim Tomlinson, Co-Applicant

Dr Valerie Wright, Research Associate


All co-authored by the project team

Deindustrialisation and the Moral Economy in Scotland since 1955 (Edinburgh University Press, 2021), pp. x + 279

‘Defending the right to work: the 1983 Timex workers’ occupation in Dundee’, Labour History Review, 86.1 (2021), pp.63-90

‘Being a “Clydesider” in the age of deindustrialisation: skilled male identity and economic restructuring in the West of Scotland since the 1960s’, Labor History, 61.2 (2020), pp. 151-169

‘De-industrialization: a case study of Dundee, 1951-2001, and its broad implications’, Business History (doi: 10.1080/00076791.2019.1676235), published 2019

‘Deindustrialization, the Linwood Car Plant and Scotland’s Political Divergence from England in the 1960s and 1970s’, Twentieth Century British History, 30.3 (2019), 399-423