STAR’S OPINION: A stainless steel dagger to the heart

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It’s always good to try to delve deeper into every story and seek out the positives, the silver lining lurking beneath the headlines.

But what positive can you take from the news that Tata Steel, which has plants in Stocksbridge and Rotherham, is planning to sell off its UK operations, putting the future of thousands of jobs across the country in doubt, including 2,000 here in South Yorkshire?

The people of Stocksbridge have spoken today, over on pages 8-9.

They tell us that steel production is the lifeblood of the town, with one estimating that 50 per cent of residents of Stocksbridge work at Tata or have relatives who do.

Put short, closing the steel plant would rip the heart out of Stocksbridge and deal a massive blow to Sheffield as a whole.

And it would indeed be a massive blow. Yes, Sheffield may have diversified since the glory days of thriving steelworks looming large over every skyline, and the service industries that Sheffield now boasts, with companies like Plusnet, and Meadowhall Shopping Centre, and of course some fantastic research and technology facilities like those at the Olympic Legacy Park.

But there is no shying away from the fact that Sheffield was built on steel, and every time there are job cuts, or potential closures, it represents the deterioration of our heritage – a legacy once shining in stainless steel, slowly rusting as communities are sliced apart, one cutback at a time.

It is possible, of course, that whatever company purchases Tata’s UK plants – assuming a buyer is found and Tata does go ahead – they will continue to operate and go from strength to strength.

But that may not happen unless the Government supports this vital industry – vital not just to the thousands of people and communities supported with employment, many of whom have never done anything else, but to the British economy as a whole.

For a start, British projects should use British steel, end of.

The fact that a new power plant in Somerset was not going to use British industry until a fuss was made is inexplicable.

The Government was happy to bail out the banks, but support for steel, on which the livelihoods of much less wealthy people depend, has been less forthcoming.

It’s time those with the power to help this vital industry step up to the plate, because one thing is for sure: these workers will continue to fight for their and Sheffield’s future, and we should all do the same.