Noxious deindustrialization: experiences of precarity and pollution in Scotland’s petrochemical capital

Lorenzo Feltrin, Alice Mah, David Brown

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This article introduces the concept of ‘noxious deindustrialization’ – employment deindustrialization in areas where significantly noxious industries are still operating – and explores some implications of this paradox by studying community-industry relations in the Scottish petrochemical town of Grangemouth. In the heyday of ‘Boomtown Grangemouth’ during the first three decades after World War II, there existed an implicit social contract between the local industry and community in which male fenceline residents had widespread access to secure and well-paid employment in the factories, but the community had to accept the related pollution and hazards. This social contract gradually declined since the late 1970s due to a combination of automation, rising qualification barriers and associated long-range recruiting, and outsourcing to a partially itinerant workforce. For the Grangemouth community, this trend led to the current situation of employment deindustrialization coupled with the continuing exposure to the socioenvironmental damage and hazards engendered by operating petrochemical plants. We argue that noxious deindustrialization – with its dystopian corollaries of rising inequality and precarity, cumulative environmental degradation, and loosening community ties – is happening both globally and in local areas, and that Grangemouth is a dramatic example of noxious deindustrialization on a local level, where the phenomenon has put a strain on community-industry relations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)950-969
JournalEnvironment and Planning C: Politics and Space
Issue number4
Early online date18 Jan 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This study was funded by the European Research Council under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program (Grant Agreement No. 639583).

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2022.


  • Deindustrialization
  • environmental justice
  • petrochemical industry
  • Scotland


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