MPs accused of ‘destabilising’ Scottish shipbuilding industry

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By G.A.Ponsonby
 
Scotland’s biggest union has attacked two UK coalition Ministers accusing them of making comments that could destabilise Scottish shipbuilding.

The union’s intervention follows comments made by UK Defence Secretary Philip Hammond and Scottish Secretary of State Michael Moore who both suggested that Scottish workers would not be at the forefront of bids for shipbuilding contracts from South of the border should Scotland become independent.

In a statement on the website of Unite, a spokesman accuses the UK coalition of exploiting what it describes as referendum uncertainty and claims that the “constitutional mind-games” could cause a “collapse” of Scottish shipbuilding with the loss of thousands of highly skilled jobs.

In the statement, Unite officer Kenny Jordan said that unions based in three Scottish yards will be making urgent arrangements to meet with Scottish MPs with shipbuilding in their constituency.

Mr Jordan said: “The politics being played by the UK and Scottish governments over an independence referendum must end. 

“Instead of the uncertainty about Scotland’s constitutional future led by the Scottish government and exploited by the UK government the focus must be on protecting thousands of high-skilled jobs in Scotland.  If the constitutional mind-games don’t stop then this could mean the collapse of shipbuilding – that’s not scaremongering that’s the reality.”

The Union’s call for an end to the “destabilising comments” follows statements initiated by Labour MP Thomas Docherty, Tory Defence Secretary Phillip Hammond and Lib Dem Secretary of State Michael Moore which threaten to undermine the yards.

Yesterday former Labour Minister Lord George Robertson and Lib Dem Moore continued to make, what opponents claim, are comments that undermine and insult the skills and abilities of defence workers in Scotland.  Lord Robertson described the SNP’s independence plans as a “recipe for jobs destruction” for the defence industry.

The SNP has insisted that a Scottish workforce is more than capable of competing for, and winning, contracts regardless of Scotland’s constitutional position.  The party has already pointed out that the UK is bound by European Union regulations that compel nations to award contracts to the best bidder and independence would not alter that.

SNP MSP Bill Kidd whose Anniesland constituency includes the Scotstoun yard defended the ability of the skilled workforce and facilities at Govan, Scotstoun and Rosyth to win contracts under any situation.

Mr Kidd said:

“I agree with Unite that our vital industries and investment in Scotland should not be used as a political football.  When MPs are casually flinging around statements about investment they should remember the impact that has on a skilled workforce that could win any contract under any constitutional set up.”

Mr Kidd welcomed the intervention of the Union and insisted that the debate on Scotland’s constitutional future should be one that sensibly addresses the questions that people will undoubtedly have and added:

“Regardless of the political situation the skilled workers at Scotland’s shipyards can and will continue to win contracts based on their ability.  Scotland’s shipbuilders make some of the world’s finest vessels and I would be very happy to discuss with Unite how we can ensure that such harmful phrases are not allowed to damage the industry.”