No campaign urged to drop discredited shipbuilding scare

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  By a Newsnet reporter
 
The anti-independence campaign has today been urged to bring to an end its widely discredited claims that a Yes vote will end Scottish shipbuilding.
 
The call from the SNP followed yet another claim, this time from the Scottish Labour party, that independence would lead to the loss of thousands of jobs.

Speaking today, Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont said: “There is a danger that if we vote Yes in September we won’t have a shipbuilding industry any longer, because we’re reliant on these defence contracts.”

Arguing that MoD contracts would be at risk, the MSP said it was: “inconceivable contracts for defence work will be let outside the United Kingdom if Scotland became independent.  It’s irrational to think anything else,”

The claims are a repeat of similar attacks on independence by Unionist politicians who have previously claimed only a No vote will preserve Scottish shipbuilding.

Claims that a newly independent Scotland would be prevented from winning defence contracts from the rest of the UK were proved baseless in November when a UK Minister confirmed that EU procurement regulations would allow naval orders from the rest of the UK to be undertaken by yards on the Clyde without tender, even if Scotland voted Yes to independence.
 
Appearing in front of the Scottish Affairs Committee at Westminster, Andrew Murrison said EU competition law – known as Article 346 – would allow for orders to be completed in Scotland provided the Westminster Government said it was for national security reasons.

The SNP has also pointed out that comments from BAE Systems, the company that owns the Clyde Yards, have already confirmed that the Clyde is the only option for the Type 26 Frigates, regardless of whether there is a Yes vote or not.

Head of the BAE Type 26 programme, Geoff Searle, recently confirmed that the company was only looking at a “single site” solution on the Clyde.

Speaking earlier this month, he told defence magazine Jane’s: “All of our planning is based on the assumption that we will build at the revamped Scotstoun facility.  We are looking to start work on the redevelopment in early 2015 to allow Type 26 manufacture to start in May 2016.”

Searle also said that there is “no plan B” for the build of Type 26 elsewhere in the United Kingdom if there is a Yes vote – reflecting the fact that they are ending shipbuilding capacity at Portsmouth, the only yard that could have been refitted to complete the order.

Speaking in November last year, after the Clyde had been chosen over rival Portsmouth to build the Type 26 vessels, BAE’s Busines and Transformation Director Charlie Blakemore told the BBC that the decision to keep shipbuilding on the Clyde was “absolutely not” political and that the decision was a commercial one.

He said: “The Clyde has been chosen purely based on industrial grounds, all to do with capacity, capability and skill-mix.”

Commenting, SNP Defence Spokesman Angus Robertson ridiculed the claim that Scottish shipbuilding jobs were safe if Scotland remained in the Union.

He said: “The No campaign is looking and sounding desperate as they cling on to Project Fear scare stories which have already been dismissed.  It is beyond belief that anti-independence politicians claim that shipbuilding on the Clyde and at Rosyth is safe in Westminster’s hands.

“This is an industry that in the last 30 years has lost thousands of jobs and been decimated by Westminster government after Westminster government.  The Clyde has been, is now, and will in the future be the best place to build the new generation of naval ships, and that is coming direct from senior directors at BAE Systems.”

In March this year, a senior naval source told the Independent newspaper that aircraft carriers being built at Rosyth have “got to be finished” at the yard regardless of the referendum result, securing thousands of jobs.

Mr Robertson added:

“The No campaign have also said thousands of defence jobs would go at Rosyth after a Yes vote for independence, however a senior naval source has said that the aircraft carriers have ‘got to be finished’ at Rosyth, ensuring 2,000 jobs for years to come.

“Rosyth has a bright future in an independent Scotland – including military procurement, and its highly successful record in the global market place in a range of other areas, such as offshore energy and marine services, and Labour should stop scaremongering.

“The UK track record on defence in Scotland is appalling, with a multi-billion-pound defence underspend and the loss of more than 11,000 jobs in the last decade. With a Yes vote in September we can start to have a defence policy that meets the needs of Scotland.

“With Scotland’s own procurement requirements – as detailed in the white paper – along with continued success in the international market, it is clear that shipbuilding has a bright future in an independent Scotland. After generations of closure and decline under Westminster, for the first time we will be able to develop a shipbuilding strategy tailored for Scotland.

“The disgraceful anti-independence shipbuilding scare stories must end once and for all.”

Claims that independence would hit Scottish Shipbuilding have also been challenged by Alf Baird, Professor of maritime business at Napier University who suggested that only with independence could Scotland diversify its shipbuilding away from an over reliance on defence contracts.

He said: “…the re-introduction of commercial shipbuilding in Scotland will only be achieved through independence.”

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