A massive expansion of the Scottish Iron and Steel Industry took place during the First World War. But while the Ministry of Munitions and the companies gave the highest priority to steel and armaments, little was done to increase Scotland's blast furnace capacity, i.e. its ability to produce pig iron. For the greatest economy blast furnaces should be adjacent to the steel-making furnaces, permitting the product of the former to be fed directly into the latter. Such (hot-metal) practice was impossible in Scotland, condemning the industry to costs higher than they might have been.
Since the 1880s the Scottish steel industry had grown largely in sympathy with the fluctuating demands of the shipbuilders and so the depression of shipping throughout most of the inter-war period brought acute difficulties to steel. The industry's response was to enter into agreements relating to prices and quotas and to merge and rationalise. By the late 1930s considerable progress had been made towards restructuring and modernisation. Under the leadership of Sir John Craig (1874-1956) and Dr Andrew McCance (1889-1983), the firm of Colvilles dominated the industry, but fundamental weaknesses remained. It continued to be overwhelmingly dependent upon shipbuilding and to suffer from the dis-economies implicit in its geographically dispersed sites. Nevertheless, throughout the Second World War the industry maintained an annual output of nearly 2,000,000 tons, even when the Ministry of Supply seemed "to be asking the impossible". After 1944 new schemes were drawn up within the context of a national plan for the regeneration of the entire British iron and steel industry.
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