This article examines the nature, use and development of costing systems employed in the shipbuilding, engineering and metals industries of the West of Scotland between the years c 1900–1960. The research is for the most part archivally-based, and is founded on the surviving records of 11 firms across the sector. The sector's business history is outlined, the systems in use are then examined firm by firm, after which general conclusions are drawn about their common characteristics. Most were job or contract-based cost systems, in which rudimentary absorption techniques for overheads were applied, estimates were compared progressively with actuals and the control of departmental overhead expenditure was broadbrush. Cost accounting development within the sector is next examined, in particular the rejection of standard costing and budgetary control. This is linked with scepticism which existed about the relevance of Taylorism and Scientific Management to the area's industries, and also with the fragile industrial relations climate which prevailed over much of the period and which caused some firms to avoid payment by results remuneration systems. An engineering culture among management may also have inhibited the development of costing. The costing systems which were employed are assessed as having been adequate. The article concludes by suggesting that the factors identified as inhibiting costing development may well apply in future studies of the history of cost accounting in the UK.