By Bob Duncan
Labour are “in cahoots” with the Tories over defence job cuts, say the SNP, and must “come clean” on the impact of their plans in Scotland.
Following Jim Murphy’s inability to make any assurances on the future of defence spending, the SNP has said that Labour and Tory UK governments have failed Scotland’s needs and contrasted these failings with clear SNP commitments to support conventional defence in Scotland.
Speaking at yesterday’s Reform conference on ‘value for money in defence’, Labour’s defence spokesman Mr Murphy admitted that there is huge uncertainty for Scotland’s defence spending if Scotland remains in the United Kingdom with the constitutional status quo.
In his speech, Mr Murphy said:
“We are simply unable to make commitments now because we are not in a position to know what the health of the finances will be in 2015.
“In the same way that families and businesses worry about the uncertainty of their future financial stability and spending power, so too do all policy-makers.”
And Mr Murphy went on to say he agreed largely with some of the Tory government’s cuts, adding:
“Labour cannot make commitments now to reversing any cuts in defence spending.”
SNP Defence Spokesman Angus Robertson pointed to the cuts which mean that there could be a further 20,000 to 30,000 job losses in the sector, according to Ian Godden, former chairman of ADS, the industry body for aerospace and defence.
Mr Godden wrote in the industry forum Defence Viewpoints:
“With defence currently supporting over 300,000 jobs the 10 per cent cut in Government spending is estimated to lead to the loss of between 20,000 and 30,000 highly-skilled jobs in the UK, often in localities where deprivation is already above the national average.
“In the longer run this will hit small and medium-sized businesses disproportionately and therefore affect future wealth-creation opportunities across every region of the United Kingdom.”
Mr Robertson said:
“Jim Murphy and Labour must come clean and confirm what we fear – that they plan to carbon copy the same level of cuts to defence budgets as the Tories have done.
“Make no mistake, there is already a dramatic underspend on defence in Scotland – a pattern that is set to continue as long as Westminster dictates defence policy for our country.
“Scotland’s defence footprint has been disproportionately cut over the last decade, with over 11,000 jobs lost and a £5.6 billion underspend which has seen the closure of bases and the creation of mammoth capability gaps.
“The Defence Secretary owes it to service personnel, and our defence communities, to explain, face-to-face why Westminster is cutting jobs and capabilities.
“And the referendum in 2014 is the opportunity to secure a defence policy that is right for Scotland with independence, including getting rid of Trident nuclear weapons.”