A FEW of articles in Tuesday’s National have made me decide to write, but where to begin?

Let’s start with the Building Standards Scotland (Tory bill ‘could lead to fires like Grenfell’, September 22). In my working life I had to know and understand parts of these in detail, and what was impressed upon me when studying back in the 1960s was that the Scottish Standards and the Building Regulations for England and Wales differed to reflect different environmental conditions, the Scottish regs being more onerous to reflect our climate conditions in particular.

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Because I worked throughout Britain I had to have a knowledge of these regulations for both us and England and Wales. My main areas of expertise included thermal insulation, fire and acoustic performance of different types of insulating and cladding products. Regarding the use of aluminium composite materials (ACM), their use as an outer cladding material was/is permitted under the Scottish Standards, but the problem arises with the choice of thermal insulation behind the cladding and the way that it is installed with regard to fire performance.

Without becoming more technical, I found that there was an issue where contractors didn’t not know the difference between the definitions of “combustible”, “non-combustible” and “of limited combustibility”. There was confusion as to what the different Euronorm standards compliance meant and I was once called to explain the differences to the main and subcontractors at the Hydro; they had used exactly the correct product to comply with sound insulation and became confused about the fire properties and regulatory compliance: sorted and clarified.

So if standards are to be combined, the Scottish ones should prevail, but that must go with education about interpretation and understanding of what is to be built and why, and what is used where and in what combination.

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Next topic is the fabrication of wind tower jackets (Call to halt building of wind farms amid jobs row, September 22). Once this would not have been a problem, as Scotland was “littered” with steel fabricators: Fleming Brothers, Redpath Brown, William Bain, Barnet and Morton, to name but a few.

Now all gone. The reasons for this situation are manifold, but chief amongst them was the deliberate emasculation of the unions under the Thatcher era. The chosen tool was to engineer closure of major industries where unions were seen as powerful.

Take the example of Ravenscraig, where the perceived lack of productivity was to be used as a tool to justify closure. So targets on quality and tonnage were created, where failure would justify closure. Instead the workers then exceeded what was demanded and orders for Ravenscraig’s product grew from major high-end car manufacturers. This was all wrong, and Thatcher’s placeman Ian McGregor shut down the works anyway.

The same applies to commercial shipbuilding, where we are just not competitive; think of Orkney Ferries’ latest ferry from the Far East.

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In my view there is a common denominator, which is the rise and rise of the financial services industry – also encouraged by governments since the Thatcher era. Financiers make nothing but decide what is to be produced where, and only if they can maximise the greatest return for stockholders. They engineer the buying and selling of companies, take investment grants, run down the facilities and then move the assets elsewhere; think of the last remnant of railway works at Springburn.

These people also give rise to the bullying culture that so-called managers engage in in all organisations today. In my younger days, motivation was the implemented solution for morale and productivity. Are the bullies afraid for their own jobs? I was once badly bullied at work until I declared enough and challenged the bully to a “square go” at the risk of my own job! He backed down.

As I said, many issues, but unless our country analyses the causes of our plight by looking back, we cannot determine the best way forward. The decisions might be hard, but if it is in “an all for one and one for all” spirit then a new enlightenment may lead Scotland out of the dark place we are in at present.

Ian Gray