Issue 3 – effect of ww1 on scottish economy general theme

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General theme:

Scotland had an over-reliance on heavy industries like ship building, coal, steel, etc. during the war these industries were given a boost by orders for munitions, farmers by rationing etc.

However after the war the decline of orders led to high unemployment and rising emigration.
The Wartime Economy


  • Men joining armed forces left a labour shortage filled by women e.g. 30,000 female workers in Gretna munitions works, 60% Jute workforce in Dundee female. etc.

  • However big fear of dilution of skills & wages caused resentment against female workers & strikes in ship yards 1915.


  • Loss of certain products was boost to Scottish farmers e.g. increased demand for lamb as orders for cheaper lamb from Australia hampered by U Boats.

  • Helped during wartime by food shortages caused by German submarine blockade and demand for home grown food.

  • 5% increase in farmland due to demand for more food,

  • Farm workers wages doubled during war.

  • Many farm workers replaced by POWs, conchies or female Land Army

  • Scottish sheep farmers boosted in wartime by government orders for wool to make uniforms, blankets etc.


  • Rationing began in April 1918 e.g. red meat, sugar etc and lasted till 1920 in some foodstuffs e.g. butter.

  • People encouraged by propaganda to eat less e.g. meatless days (Monday & Friday).

  • Health of nation improved due to lack of red meat, sugar etc.

Ship building:

  • Clyde yards like Beardmore’s boosted before war by warship orders

  • 481 ships built on Clyde during war, most ever.

  • Aberdeen and Dundee shipbuilding also boomed e.g. replacing fishing vessels.

Coal/ Steel/Iron:

  • Boosted by war time orders for steel for munitions, ships e.g. 90% armoured plate from Clyde

  • Steel output doubled during war.

  • Coal production during war fell slightly due to switch to oil.


  • In Dundee many orders for sandbags during war boosted industry, 6 million sacks per month.


  • Before 1914 boom time for Scottish east coast herring industry.

  • Demand for fish increased due to wartime food shortages.

  • Fishing fleet hampered due to wartime restrictions e.g. targeted by German navy, fishing ships commandeered by navy, herring industry moves from east to west coast.

Edinburgh: boom in printing & rubber manufacture e.g. for tyres, surgical instruments etc.

Textiles: Big demand for orders for uniforms etc increased employment and offset loss of overseas markets

Post-war Economy – after 1918


  • Clyde boosted by orders for warships and merchant ships sunk in war but these orders stopped after 1918.

  • By 1923 1/3rd war time ship building production.

  • Yards short time working or lay off workers e.g. 1920s 7 out of 10 unskilled men in shipyards unemployed at some time.


  • Loss of orders for ships has knock on effect of cutting steel and coal orders.



  • Big demand for orders for uniforms etc increased employment and offset loss of overseas markets


  • Switch to new fuels e.g. oil affected orders for coal.

  • Loss of markets in central and Eastern Europe affected orders.

  • By early 1920’s Scotland producing 1/3rd less coal.

  • By end 1920’s workforce cut by half

  • Industry badly affected by strikes as owners try to raise hours and cut wages.

Land Issue:

  • Small farmers/crofters wanted more land to farm, promised this if volunteered for war.

  • Failure of government to force big landowners to give over under used land led to land seizures e.g. Western Isles.


  • 58% of all emigrants from Britain were Scottish in the 1920s.

  • Established Scot’s communities in England e.g. Corby steel works.

  • Emigration to Canada, Australia etc encouraged by the Empire Settlement Act of 1922

  • Subsidised emigrants to Australia were known as ‘£5 Poms’

  • In the 1920s 3 out of 10 migrants to New Zealand came from Scotland.

  • Huge numbers of Scots did emigrate but 1/3rd of emigrants returned so impact was not as great as seemed at the time.

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