By a Newsnet reporter
The SNP has welcomed the assessment of a senior independent defence analyst that BAE’s Clyde shipyards are well placed to continue their highly skilled work post-independence.
Howard Wheedon, senior strategist with City firm BGC Partners, told the Daily Record newspaper that the Clyde yards would continue to operate after Scottish independence.
Mr Wheedon’s remarks come after Labour’s shadow defence spokesman Jim Murphy claimed that Scottish independence would cost “thousands” of jobs on the Clyde.
Mr Murphy said:
“It’s crystal clear that if we leave Britain then we leave the Royal Navy. If we lose the Navy we lose the work in the yards. That would cost thousands of skilled jobs and many more in small companies in the supply chain.”
However Mr Wheedon disagreed with Mr Murphy’s assessment. He noted that defence giant BAE has called in consultants to look at the future of the Govan and Scotstoun yards, as well as their yard at Portsmouth. Mr Wheedon believes that the Portsmouth yard is the one most likely to be closed.
Mr Wheedon said:
“If BAE decide to close a shipyard because of uncertainty about future work levels, I think it would be Portsmouth. It would be natural because Portsmouth is smaller than the Clydeside operations.
“It’s true that if Portsmouth closed and Scotland went independent, all the yards would be in Scotland. But that’s not BAE’s concern. That’s the UK Government’s concern.”
Commenting on the assessment, SNP MSP for Glasgow Anniesland Bill Kidd said it showed that in all circumstances Scottish yards will continue to secure orders on the basis of their skills, and record of delivery. He added that in comparable countries like Finland, Denmark and Sweden, shipbuilding occupies a larger proportion of the economy than it currently does in Scotland, yet these nations do not depend upon orders from the Royal Navy or the Westminster government.
Mr Kidd said:
“Howard Wheeldon’s assessment shows that in all circumstances Scottish yards will continue to secure orders on the basis of their formidable skills and record of delivery.
“BAE is reviewing its business because of UK cuts to defence spending as a result of the economic mess left by the last Labour government – under which at least 5,000 shipbuilding jobs were lost in Scotland.
“If shipbuilding in Scotland had the same average share of manufacturing turnover and employment across each of the four comparable nations of Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, turnover would be £400 million higher and employment over 2,000 higher.
“Like the Scottish yards, these countries accept orders from all over the world. It is not the UK that makes the yards successful, it is the great Scottish skills base and technical expertise that brings orders to the yards – and this will continue to be the case post independence.”