Chronology of Industrial and Economic Development: 1945-2000

Sonia Baker

Over time, both local and national government became more involved in East Lothian’s industrial economy and, by 2000, the county supported a diverse range of small industrial enterprises. Post 1960, East Lothian’s fortune was increasingly tied to the economic highs and lows of the British economy, with entry into Europe also of influence. It was a chequered tale, with boom and bust, reflected in cutbacks and redundancies as well as expansion and investment. While it would be almost impossible to cover all industries, and every twist and turn of fortune, the following chronology gives an impression of the county’s industrial economic history. Much of this information has been gleaned from the two main local newspapers: the Musselburgh News (1947-date) and the Haddingtonshire Courier (1945-1970), later the East Lothian Courier (1971-date).

1943 Cruden Group began trading in Musselburgh as Murray & Cruden
1945 Brunton’s Wire Works, Musselburgh employed 2500
1946 Scottish Seaweed Research Institute Association (formed 1944) moved to Inveresk Gate
1946-1951 Nationalisation of many industries
1949 Mink farm established at Newhailes
1950 Frank P Tindall appointed as County Planning Officer to East Lothian County Council, and actively promoted industrial development in the county
1953 County Development Plan produced
1954 Industry reached high levels of output
1956 A statement was made to the effect that Dunbar Town Council had done everything in its power to attract industry – convenient road and rail facilities made the town ideally suited to light industry

Scottish Seaweed Research Institute Association wound up; Inveresk site taken over by the Arthur D Little Ltd, a subsidiary of Arthur D Little Inc. that offered contract research services

1959 August – fight to save paper industry in Musselburgh
1960 Macmerry Industrial Site opened on 23rd September

Secretary of State approved plans for new cement works at Oxwellmains, Dunbar

Plans for new power station at Prestonlinks

1960-1961 Brunton’s supplied rope for Forth Road Bridge
1961 Industrial valuations in Midlothian increase by 500%
1962 Unemployment was bad; the last of East Lothian’s pits were to be shut down

Work starts on new power station at Prestonlinks – extra demand for local coal expected

Richard Baillie & Sons, Contractors Ltd, Haddington went into liquidation

1963 For the first time, the County Council agreed to build a factory on behalf of an industrial concern on the industrial site at Macmerry

September: Associated Portland Cement Manufacturers – The Blue Circle Group’s new cement works at Dunbar, opened

1964 The key word for 1964 was ‘industry’ (Haddingtonshire Courier); 32 acres at Macmerry were zoned for industry by the County Council

When Haddington lost out on a maltings development to Pencaitland, because of delays and objections, Haddington Town Council realised that they needed to ensure that they could offer industry suitable land for development. From this point on, they encouraged the County planning committee to take a more positive stance to attract industry. Shortly after, Gateside was zoned for industry

Dunbar Ratepayers’ Association formed

Brunton’s employed 1500+

February: the last mine in East Lothian, at Prestonlinks, closed

October: the first fully automated maltings in Europe were installed by Thomas Bernard & Company at Mill Wynd, Haddington

1965 New industries were urgently needed as the outlook for mining not looking good

The government refused to grant East Lothian Development Status for the

west end of the county; to the east, existing industries were showing some expansion

The County Council’s Industrial Site at Macmerry was serviced; only one project was in sight – a warehouse

Monktonhall colliery to open; 1500 jobs anticipated

May: Musselburgh Town Council sought support from Dalkeith Town Council for its campaign to promote the industrial development of the Esk Valley. However in March 1966, when Dalkeith responded with the suggestion that an Esk Valley Development Board be established, Musselburgh Town and District Council rejected the suggestion, considering that Midlothian County Planning Authority had done what was necessary to attract industrialists. The proposal was described as ‘a hare-brained scheme’ (Musselburgh News4.3.1966)

June: Midlothian was excluded from the government’s Growth Areas Policy. The county’s infrastructure was seen to be too poor (eg sewage) to support industrial development, especially where development relied on efficient disposal of waste water (Musselburgh news 4.6.1965)

The Arthur D Little Research Institute relocated to the revamped Fleets Pit Bathhouse at Elphinstone. Renamed the Elphinstone Research Centre the Inveresk Research Group was established.

1966 East Lothian was included in the Scottish Development Area scheme, and the grants to develop industries greatly assisted the county

The Macmerry Industrial Site was much busier

1967 Conflict arose between Musselburgh Town Council and Midlothian County Council over the provision of land for industrial development

Cockenzie Power Station opened

March: Aviamac (Scotland), Prestonpans a Scottish subsidiary of Morfax Engineering moved into the old Fowler’s Brewery premises

Helgar Watts, Haddington acquired land at Gateside; their subsidiary, Hilger Electronics (Scotland) Ltd set up the following year

1968 Financial climate not good

March: Precision engineering firm McKettrick-Agnew & Co.

Ltd. (employing 30-40) moved from Olivebank, Musselburgh to Macmerry Industrial Estate. The £60,000 building was 75% funded by East Lothian County Council, 25% Board of Trade grants; it was the fifth factory to be built at Macmerry

April: Ranco Motors, Haddington won a Quality Award for Industry; shortly afterwards they had to temporarily lay off 60 of their 400 workers

Similarly, Bermalie Maltings closed, but re-opened

Kilspindie, Haddington planned expansion

Crudens won a £4.75 million building contract in Dundee

Ladywell Brewery, Musselburgh (registered 1891) was taken over by John Young & Co. Ltd.’s Brewery, which in turn was acquired by Whitbreads

1969 Faul-Coradi occupied their factory at Gateside, Haddington

Aviamac, Prestonpans extended their premises

Ranco, Haddington expanded again

Fowler’s Brewery (established late 18th century), Prestonpans, closed

1970 United Wire Ltd, a precision castings factory, moved to the Macmerry Industrial Estate; it had the potential to attract some 30 employees

Proposals put forward from the County Council to build factories in both Dunbar and North Berwick

The Inveresk Research Group at the Elphinstone Research Centre was renamed Inveresk Research International

1971 Industrial Relations Act

East Lothian County Council employed its first Industrial Officer (Richard Adams) (East Lothian Courier 29.1.1971)

February: Closure of Inveresk Paper Mill (established 1871). The attempt to find a buyer failed; 260 employees (mostly female) out of work.

The site of the mill extended to some 12-15 acres

At 6.5%, the unemployment situation in Musselbugh was becoming desperate; mining and manufacturing (especially that associated with the paper industry) had been declining for the past four years. In the Esk Valley, unemployment had risen by 141% since 1967; with 6.5% of the working population unemployed, this was 1% above the Scottish figure. (Musselburgh News 12 3 1971 p1)

However, the Esk Valley was excluded from the government’s Special Industrial Development plans, which gave up to 45% building grants. The Esk Valley’s unemployment figures were only exceeded by two areas in West Central Scotland (which had Special Development Area status) Greenock and Port Glasgow with 8.6%. The SDA of West Lothian had a lower unemployment rate than Musselburgh and with 900+ unemployed; the town resented this.

The building trade was in decline

Musselburgh MP Dr Gavin Strang proposed a Lothian Development Council (Musselburgh News 19 3 1971); across the area there was a shortage of designated space for industrial expansion

1972 The closure of Wallyford Brickworks was announced

New factories announced at: North Berwick (not given), Cockenzie (light engineering), Garvald (Joyleigh, souvenirs), Tranent (Kinloch Anderson, kilts and tartans) and two on the Macmerry Industrial Estate (one with overseas links, employing 40-50, the other light engineering) (East Lothian Courier (7 1 1972)

1973 Oil crisis

VAT introduced in April

UK joined European Economic Community

‘Boom Year for Musselburgh’ announced the Musselburgh News; the building industry was expanding. Others saw it as a time of uncertainty

Crudens Investments purchased Hart’s Builders, Macmerry

Inveresk Paper Mill site was purchased by Falcovant Ltd, a Manchester based firm; plans for an industrial complex were mentioned (Musselburgh News 5 1 1973)

1975 Introduction of the Sex Discrimination Act (1975): Equal Opportunities Commission set up

Although the unemployed figure of 825 (in Musselburgh) was the highest for 2.5 years, the increase in the unemployment figures began to slow down; a period of inflation began. By September, the number of unemployed (Musselburgh) had fallen to 757

Brunton’s employed 600+; 1975 was a good year for the firm

Stuarts Net Mill: 50 workers, mostly female, had been on short time since 1974, following a decline in the demand for textiles

1976 Period of worldwide recession

The Manpower Services Commission created temporary jobs for the unemployed, including projects of restoration at Inveresk Gate, Musselburgh and at Prestonpans Historic Site; beach rehabilitation at Port Seton; a school population survey of East Lothian District; clearance of Pencaitland Railway Walk.

David Lowe’s market gardening firm (established 1860) foundered, leaving its 175 workers out of work

Ranco, Haddington was taken over by the Scottish Development Agency, making this the first acquisition of its kind in Scotland

Newhailes Mink Farm in financial difficulties

January: Musselburgh’s number of unemployed had reached a new high of 1023 (Musselburgh News 23.1.1976)

October: Musselburgh’s rates were more than doubled

November: The National Coal Board confirmed existence of about 50 million tons of coal under the seabed at Musselburgh bay; this had the potential of 500 jobs at Monktonhall

1978 Winter of Discontent – and industrial action

Dunbar International Golf Holdings collapsed: 50 employees were made redundant

February: Approval given for Torness power station

1979 Announcement that East Lothian was to be down-graded from a Development Area to an intermediate area from August 1980; DA status gave industry an automatic qualification for 20% grants on new buildings and machinery. (It appears that the county had been graded as a Development Area since 1966)

The Tandberg factory, Haddington closed, with the loss of 150 jobs go; In March most regained their jobs when the factory was taken over by Mitsubishi

The go-ahead was given for the new mine under Musselburgh bay (this – the Balcarres Shaft never went ahead, as delays meant that circumstances in the industry had changed by the time the key decisions were to be taken)

1980 August: East Lothian down-graded from a Development Area to an

intermediate area; only certain forms of selective assistance were available for industry. Firms could still qualify for grant aid from the EEC.

East Lothian District Council appointed an Industrial Officer (Richard Packham), shifting to more pro-active stance on industrial development

East Lothian Council’s Economic Development Unit set up – a local enterprise agency

July: Start of period of recession. Jobs were no longer secure; smaller firms went under, established companies made redundancies and made ready to weather the storm

Unemployment increased

1200 were employed at the Torness site

July: Brunton’s put 170 employees onto short time

1981 There was a continuing worldwide recession.

East Lothian became the highest rated county in Scotland, with rate increases of some 50%, and unemployment moved towards 20% across the whole county. More shops closed and factories made further cutbacks

January: The construction industry was particularly hard hit, and came to a standstill: in the Musselburgh area alone there were 1653 construction workers unemployed

In spite of winning a £125, 000 export order, Brunton’s made 100 redundancies

Lothian Electrical Machines, Haddington made redundancies

Lothian Regional Council lost the Rate Support Grant, and was £10.4 million down for the year 1981/1982 (East Lothian Courier, 23.1.1981)

1982 July: East Lothian (and Midlothian and Edinburgh) was denied further

Development Area Status, and was downgraded from an intermediate to a non-assisted status. So, from August, there was no aid available from the Industrial Development Fund for anyone wanting to set up a firm in the county (East Lothian Courier 2.7.1982)

In summary: the Region was to lose entitlement to claim any regional development assistance for industry; elective grant assistance under Section 7 of the Industry Act; and any assistance from the European Regional Development Fund (Musselburgh News 2.7.1982)

Unemployment in the west of the district was 17%+, and was especially bad in Prestonpans and Tranent (ELC)

Unemployment in the area had increased by 22.7% (Scotland 11.6%; UK 14.2%) (MN)

July: The Council appointed an Industrial and Commercial assistant

Haddington West Mills closed; the loss of 25 jobs was an indication of how much the firm had declined; at its peak there were 200 employees

October: George Maxwell & Sons, (established 1849) Musselburgh went into liquidation; 27 lost their jobs; the firm had made fairground rides

1983 Recession continued, affecting every part of the County – east and west

The East Lothian District Council and the Scottish Development Agency opened the Inveresk Industrial Estate, a joint venture. Lothian Regional Council opened a small Industrial Estate at Cockenzie and smaller workshops at Dunbar

January: 100+ jobs were created by the new Small Businesses Scheme, a programme of grants and accommodation for those starting up small new industries, run by East Lothian District Council and Lothian Regional Council

April: SSEB announced that 40 maintenance workers at Cockenzie Power

Station were to be made redundant

July: An announcement of a £30 million investment by Blue Circle, Dunbar, was followed in November by the revelation that as a result of modernisation, 200+ job losses were expected

Fenton Barns Farm was awarded an EEC grant of £156,000 to extend the turkey processing plant

The haulage company of William Baxter & Sons, Tranent went into receivership

1984 EEC ban on sprat farming impacts on fishing industry

March: Miners’ Strike; financial and other support given by Regional and District Councils

May: The impact of the miners’ strike was being felt in shops and stores across the west of the county

Closure of Hall Brothers garage (established 1944), Musselburgh; 30 employees lost their jobs

December: The District Council awarded the 50th small business award since the scheme’s inception in 1983. It has led to 30 new firms and 100 new jobs

1985 March: end of Miners’ strike

Dunbar to become a Special Project Area (in anticipation of the job losses once the construction phase of Torness Power Station ended)

Belhaven Brewery, Dunbar to expand

Lemac (formerly Lothian Electrical Machines), Haddington were recruiting new workers

May: Blue Circle announced a £30 million modernisation plan

1986 The Sex Discrimination Act (1986)

BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) first diagnosed from 2 cows in England

May: Brunton’s cutbacks affected 80 of 300 workers

July: Brunton’s subject of £5 million takeover bid by Carclo, a Yorkshire engineering firm.

July: Belhaven Brewery planned to acquire 50 pubs and hotels within 90-mile radius of Dunbar base

August: Carclo Engineering had acquired 50%+ of Brunton’s equity

September: District Council announced scheme of assistance to shops in rural areas – interest-free loans of up to £3000, repayable over 5 years

In October, the EEC designated Lothian a ‘Coal and Steel Community Employment Area’; cash at low interest rates became available for expanding or new industry (excluding the shopping retail trade). This followed British Coal’s announcement over the future of the Monktonhall and Bilston Glen pits. (East Lothian Courier 17.10.1986)

October: The Farmers’ Supply Association of Scotland, Wallyford (8 employees, established c 1966) receivership

1987 The New Year saw the first race over jumps under National Hunt rules at Musselburgh Racecourse, following three years of negotiation and £80-90,000 investment.

Pirelli Construction, Millhill, Musselburgh was awarded £9 million contract for the electrification of the Edinburgh-Berwick east coast railway line, providing 100 new jobs over two years

May: Belhaven Brewery to treble production

1988 Brunton’s announce 69 redundancies: the firm was acquired by Carclo plc

March: £2.5 million extension to Belhaven Brewery opened by the Princess Royal

April: Torness Reactor One went ‘live’, and by June was at full power

May: Belhaven Brewery got rid of over a third of its workforce, and ‘efforts were made to regain lost sales’ (East Lothian Courier 30.12.1988 retrospective). The Chairman was given a golden handshake and left in October

June: news that a £2 million extension to a Musselburgh laboratory was to create 25-30 jobs

1989 The Poll Tax, or Community Charge was introduced into Scotland on 1st April 1989

Torness Reactor Two now critical (ie producing electricity)

May: Torness officially opened, with great secrecy, by Margaret Thatcher

Bilston Glen Colliery closed

1990 Recession and high interest rates

Poll Tax experiment launched in Scotland

Industrial Relations Act 1990

Mitsubishi, Haddington expanded; workforce up by 100 to 520

Inveresk Research International Ltd. (IRI), Elphinstone, expanded: workforce up by 98 to 420

June: first case of BSE confirmed in East Lothian: three cases in total found in the Lothians

Launch of the Dunbar Initiative – aim to regenerate the town

July: Belhaven Brewery to treble output

1991 Belhaven Brewery had ‘an outstanding year’

July: Fishing industry in serious decline – Dunbar fishermen had to travel miles to find fish

October: four departments of Brunton’s – Musselburgh’s largest employer – to close, 25% of workforce redundant

Recession began to bite

1992 May: the Dunbar-based Edinburgh Smoked Salmon factory to relocate to

Dingwall; 20 employees lose jobs

September – Black Wednesday when the pound crashed out of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (two years after joining it); interest rates rose 15-20% that day, resulting in UK wide recession

November: Blue Circle to cut workforce by 20%: this was due to a decline in the construction industry

1993 The Sex Discrimination and Equal pay (Remedies) Regulations, 1993

The Poll Tax was abolished

British Coal Industry was privatised

Haddington Fabricators, Macmerry went into receivership: bought by Had-Fab.

Belhaven Brewery, Scotland’s oldest brewery, was bought out by management under Stuart Ross – £36 million takeover

Brunton’s lost a further 88 employees; all wire drawing facilities at Musselburgh were closed

A management buy-out of the former Stuart’s Nets (established 1849) kept 19 in work; the firm was renamed J&W Stuart Ltd

1995 A joint project between Dunbar Initiative, Lothian Regional Council, East Lothian District Council and LEEL (Lothian & Edinburgh Enterprise Ltd) was launched; the aim was the regeneration of Dunbar

April: Musselburgh racecourse received a £262,000 grant from the European Regional Development fund; a new hospitality suite was built and the stable yard upgraded

June: Brunton’s announced 50 redundancies by end year: the workforce was reduced to 80; Brunton’s merged with John Shaw Ltd – to form Brunton Shaw Ltd., meanwhile, the aero department formed a new company – Brunton’s Aero Products Ltd.

November: partners of the Dunbar Initiative agreed £9 million to continue Dunbar

Improvement schemes – aiming to create 400 jobs and attract 1300 new residents to Dunbar

1996 Nuclear Energy privatised

March: the EU blocked all UK beef following revelations that there might be a causal relationship between BSE and non-variant vCJD (variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease) All administration for Brunton’s taken out of the county

June: Belhaven Brewery was floated on the stock exchange for £35 million –

July: Introduction of cattle passports

October: 80 jobs to go at Torness over the next two-three years

1997 Referendum on devolution – Scotland voted ‘yes’

February: with existing planning permission due to end in 1998, there was

a proposal to extend the Blindwells opencast site by 160 acres, and work to continue to 2000; this was given the go-ahead

Brunton’s Wire Works (the Ropery) closed after 121 years: the remaining branch employed 30

At PPL Therapeutics, Tranent, Dolly the Sheep – the world’s first genetically identical animal was born

March: Kennedy of Haddington (garage established 1895) closed

1998 East Lothian Council’s Economic Development Department and LEEL(Lothian & Edinburgh Enterprise Ltd) set up a taskforce to find jobs. There was a shortage of land across the county for industrial development

Two council officials were appointed to deal with European affairs and EU funding programmes

Farmers received some Government Aid; the beef ban was lifted post the BSE crisis

Wallyford was noted as the most deprived part of the county

J&W Stuart Ltd moved from Inveresk to Eyemouth

March: Blue Circle expended £35 million to expand their plant capacity and range of products; they also decided to undertake trials of burning scrap tyres along with industrial waste solvents, approved by SEPA (the Scottish Environment Protection Agency)

July: Mitsubishi, Haddington closed, with 500 redundancies. The site was sold (£3-4 million), to Fife based Industrial Estates (Scotland) Ltd, and was promoted to Taiwanese electronics companies. It was renamed Gateside Commerce Park

1999 Ban on retail sales of beef-on-the-bone lifted at the end of the year

The Government was asked to grant East Lothian Grant-Assisted Area Status in an attempt to attract investment to create jobs. The county ‘did not wish to be regarded as a suburb of Edinburgh and East Central Scotland’

Cash-strapped East Lothian Council also sought continuing European Community aid via the East of Scotland European Consortium; the ongoing reviews of EEC funding led to concern that the East of Scotland could lose its qualifying status

By the yearend, the Council was fighting the loss of European money, which had helped to fund projects worth more than more than £14 million

Fords of Musselburgh (bakers, established 1926) were taken over by Lyndale Foods, England. The 150 staff at Meadowmill and the 9 shops in the county to continue (Fords had a total of 334 shops and 4500 employees in Scotland)

April: PPL Therapeutics, Tranent announced £45 million developments, and a possible 150 new jobs if a 20-acre site could be found; the firm used milk from genetically modified sheep to make new medicines, including the product AAT. The deal fell through, and PPL Therapeutics made 36 of their 97 Ormiston staff redundant, as well as reducing the flock


A new minimum wage was introduced

July: Had-Fab planned to double its Macmerry factory to accommodate demand for phone masts

Closure of Monktonhall Colliery

September: Dunbar Initiative won a Best Practice Award from British Urban Regeneration: projects ranged from housing, business, tourist and property development

Prawn fishermen, operating out of Port Seton and Dunbar, were relieved when the proposed government-enforced shutdown of the North Sea Fishery was rescinded.

2000 The county had the fastest growing economy in Scotland and lowest unemployment figures since records began

Plans for a new economic strategy were being drawn up between East Lothian Council, Scottish Enterprise Edinburgh & Lothian to assist new businesses, and to develop land to meet demand for commercial and industrial premises

The outlook for farming was bleak but the BSE export ban to Europe was lifted (although ignored by France to late 2002)

Crudens Investments Ltd. by 2001, turnover was £79 million, and it had 715 employees based in companies in Edinburgh and Glasgow

At Cockenzie power station, the 250 jobs were secure once the government decided against a new station in Fife; the 300 associated jobs were also secured

Brunton’s Aero Products Ltd moved to new premises at Inveresk Industrial Estate

Lemac, Haddington and its 150 staff were taken over by new owner

September / October: the fuel crisis affected all sectors of the community, not only truckers and farmers