London — The largest mass protest Scotland has seen for over half a century has brought home to the Thatcher administration the seriousness of unemployment north of the border.
The protest came soon after a decision to close Scotland's only car assembly plant, with the immediate loss of more than 5,000 jobs.
An estimated 70,000 people marched through the streets of Glasgow to appeal to London for economic aid.
The march was led by the leader of the LAbour Party, Michael Foot, who told a rally that in Britain as a whole 12,000 people are being thrown out of work every day. The total in Britain was almost 2 1/2 million, and rising fast. In Scotland, unemployment levels are strikingly high. In the area around Linwood, site of the Talbot car factory which is to close, the level is 40 percent.
Scottish industrialists and trade unionists say Scotland is starved of capital and is sliding into a recession much deeper than that affecting England. Economic experts blame high interest rates and the government's policy of economic cutbacks for much of the falling away of industrial activity in Scotland. Prime Minister Thatcher and her ministers face major problems in responding to demands for help to Scottish industry. Bit outlays authorized for the British Steel Corporation, BL (the car firm), and the coal mines -- all running against "Thatcherite" self- sufficiently policy -- are draining the Exchequer of rescue funds.
The Talbot closure spotlighted a more subtle problem. The government offered help to keep the factory going, but its French owners, Peugeot, declined, arguing that markets were declining and the Linwood plant was unprofitable.
The big march in Glasgow has made Thatcher government ministers nervous about the political situation north of the border. Both the Labour Party and the Scottish National Party expect to make major gains if economic drift continues. The SNP has argued that Whitehall is out of touch with problems north of the border and that Scotland needs its own government.