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Thatcher remembered: The Ravenscraig leader Tommy Brennan

Scotland's steel industry melted away under Tory rule as unions lost their fight.

Ravenscraig steelworks in Motherwell being demolished.

Steel ran through Tommy Brennan's veins like blood. The 80-year-old worked in the giant Ravenscraig plant for 31 years before it was finally closed and demolished in 1992. Before that he had toiled away in nearby Dalzell works.

He has always trade union minded and to this day the 80-year-old from Newarthill near Motherwell is still an active member of his union. Yet while he fought bitterly against Maggie Thatcher's policies that led to their dismantling, he derived no pleasure from learning of her death.

"I was actually in the union office in Motherwell," he said matter of factly, "I didn’t have any immediate action really, we all knew she was seriously ill and there was every possibility that it was a matter of time. So it wasn’t a surprise."

The former Prime Minister's death may not have been mourned by those gathered, but neither was it celebrated as it was by some in George Square just a few miles away in Glasgow.

The union heavyweight said: "I was brought up to respect the dead and I don’t get into that sort of thing. But she was no friend of ours and no friend of the steel industry; she didn’t do anything to help us.

"Thatcher changed the whole face of Scotland.

"People ask me if she did any good, but she did a lot of harm. We were a manufacturing country that then became a servicing country, depending on the service and financial sector.

"That was her legacy. That was how Thatcher treated Scotland and the Scottish people. We also had the horrible, horrible Poll Tax - it was one that I refused to pay and I actually had my wages arrested three times. My son who lived with me refused to pay it as well.

"She did have an affect on us, my family, the Scottish steel industry."

TommyTommy Brennan speaking to STV in 2001 about the Ravenscraig regeneration.

Through his work with the trade unions Tommy met Thatcher in Glasgow Airport twice while representing the Scottish steel industry, and reminisced about the second - and last - time in 1986.

After discussions about the steel industry and the impact that it would have on Scotland, he recalls: "Anna McCurley - a Conservative MP for Renfrew at the time - set it up, and when it was finished she said to me ‘Mr Brennan, Mrs Thatcher came to Scotland today - she listened, but she didn’t hear’.

"And that was a very apt description as she sat there and listened to everything we said but she didn’t react in any way. To me it was going through the motions and no more because we were always demanding to see her."

The demands to visit the Iron Lady were not often met, as he remembered the time when he and 12 of his colleagues marched from another closed steel factory in Gartcosh all the way to Downing Street.

He said: "In 1986 we walked from Gartcosh to London with a petition from the people of Scotland in the respect of the steel industry up here.

"It was a good industry and it wasn’t one that was losing money, it was making money and worth preserving.

"We walked to Downing Street to see her and informed them that we were on our way with the petition to hand over. When we got there she refused to see us, she was having tea with someone in the garden at Downing Street.

"The doorman asked if we would leave the petition and he would see that she got it but I said ‘No way pal, that’s not happening. If she can’t see us and receive the petition from us we’ll go elsewhere with it’.

"So we jumped in taxis and went to Buckingham Palace to see the Queen.

"She was in residence but her equerry saw us and had about an hour and a half with us - he said he would hand the petition to the Queen and said we would get correspondence with her to say she had received it and that it had been passed on to the appropriate people."

The appropriate people did receive the petition, but is is obvious now more than 20 years after the demolition of the steel plant that the cries of the Scottish petitioners fell on deaf ears.

Ravenscraig was an icon of Scottish industry in its prime, and some argue it still is to this day for very different reasons.

While Brennan still waits for the end result of the Ravenscraig regeneration project - proposing a new town in the area he once called his office - the 80-year-old reflects on the woman that, as he put it, changed the face of Scotland.

"I have a simple philosophy in life that if you look at every bad situation you may find a little plus there. The one plus I could find about Thatcher was that she brought salmon back to the Clyde - she closed all the industry on either side of it so they couldn’t pollute it.

"That was the only plus I could find for her."

STV Local reporting team: Neil Drysdale, Graham Fraser, Kayleigh McLeod, Douglas Barrie, Jonathan Rennie, Kris Gilmartin, Laura McLean, Greig Gallagher & Ian Hendry.

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