By a Newsnet reporter
Claims by Labour MSP Jackie Baillie that the Trident nuclear weapons system sustains 11,000 Scottish jobs have been called into question following a Freedom of Information request by Scottish CND.
Figures obtained from the Ministry of Defence by the nuclear disarmament group show that the total number of jobs directly linked to Trident is a mere 520.
According to official figures, of the 520, 159 are employed by the Ministry of Defence and 361 are employed by contractors.
Labour MSP Jackie Baillie has been a regular critic of the SNP’s policy over the siting of nuclear weapons on the Clyde. Ms Baillie has repeatedly claimed that having Trident creates 11,000 jobs, with thousands more set to be generated through plans to expand the naval base.
Speaking on her official Labour party website, Ms Bailie said: “There are over 11,000 jobs dependent on the base. The SNP would remove Trident, devastating our local economy and turning Helensburgh into a ghost town.”
Ms Baillie also claimed that the renewal of the nuclear weapons system and the expansion of the base would create thousands more jobs and added: “The SNP also fail to acknowledge that almost 3,000 new jobs will be created with the impending expansion of the base. These too would be jeopardised by the SNP plans to scrap Trident.”
The release of the official figures also follows a statement by Tory defence minister Philip Hammond that said: “The naval base at Faslane is the largest single site employer in Scotland with over 6000 jobs.”
Mr Hammond’s figure suggests that the Labour MSP has been exaggerating the jobs benefit of having Trident based on the Clyde.
However, according to Scottish CND, both the Conservative MP and the Labour MSP are guilty of inflating the job benefit.
Speaking to the Sunday Herald, SCND co-ordinator, John Ainslie said: “Both Labour and Conservative politicians are trying to scare the public by exaggerating the economic implications of nuclear disarmament,” he added;
“The loss of 520 posts would be a serious blow to those directly affected, but far more jobs would be created if the same money was spent on anything else.”
Mr Ainslie was backed by Stephen Boyd, assistant secretary at the Scottish Trades Union Congress, who told the newspaper: “Suggestions that as many as 11,000 jobs would be lost to Scotland if Trident were not replaced are inaccurate”
Mr Ainslie cited a study his organisation had commissioned along with SCND into the economic consequences of cancelling Trident
He added: “Our study concluded that the reduction in direct and indirect civilian employment across Scotland would be less than 1800 and that this reduction would not take place until after 2022.”
The results of a 2007 report also challenged claims by Jackie Baillie that Trident renewal would create an additional 3000 jobs. According to the study, the renewal of Trident would see a reduction in the Scottish block grant of £85 million per year for fifteen years which would harm Scottish employment and lead to a loss of 3000 jobs.
Commenting in the Sunday Herald, Jackie Baillie defended her 11,000 jobs number and claimed she had been told by defence experts that the entire future of the Faslane naval base was dependent on Trident.
According to the paper, the Labour MSP claimed the 520 figure was “too simplistic” and added: “Whatever people think about nuclear weapons, there is a responsibility to think about the jobs,”
Dismissing his Labour opponent’s claim as nonsense, SNP MSP, Bill Kidd, said: “Trident is, in reality, a jobs-destroyer, and attempts to justify the presence of weapons of mass destruction on the Clyde in terms of jobs is the worst kind of nonsense, as Jackie Baillie knows only too well.”