Shipbuilding row: Trade union officials backed ‘break-clause’ proposal says Labour MP


  By a Newsnet reporter
Trade union officials representing workers at the Govan and Scotstoun yards on the Clyde backed a controversial break clause plan that would mean MoD work being removed from Scotland in the event of a Yes vote, according to the local MP.
Speaking on BBC Scotland’s Sunday Politics Show, Glasgow Labour MP Ian Davidson (pictured) who proposed the controversial move said he had consulted the trade unions on his proposal before going public.

Mr Davidson, whose constituency includes the shipyards, said the unions had agreed with his calls for a break-clause.

He said: “The only way I can see, and by the way this was discussed and agreed with the unions before I put this forward, the only way of de-risking it is having a break-clause so that you give them [MoD] the comfort that in the unlikely event of Scotland voting for separation they would be able to pull it back.”

The claim that union officials sanctioned calls to insert a break-clause into any future contracts will prove controversial and will fuel speculation that plans were already underway to use workers in order to help the campaign against independence.

The Labour MP went public with his call for a break-clause last week, before news broke of possible job losses.  Days later BAE confirmed that 835 jobs would be cut from the workforce on the Clyde.

The revelation will also call into question claims from at least one senior trade union official that he was against using the workforce in order to make political capital.

GMB Convenor John Dolan has publicly accused Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon of using the workers at the yards as “political footballs”.

However it has emerged that Mr Dolan has himself been using his role at the shipyard in order to campaign with the Conservative backed anti-independence Better Together campaign.  Last March the GMB official jointly-authored an article for Better Together in which he attacked Scottish independence.

It has also emerged that the GMB official contributed to official Better Together campaign leaflets that were distributed in Govan days before a local council by-election vote.

The leaflets, exposed by online site Wings over Scotland, revealed that Dolan hid his role as GMB Convenor at Scotstoun from the leaflets and instead passed himself off as a ‘Clydeside Shipyard Worker’.

In the leaflet, Dolan claims that thousands of jobs will be at risk because of the SNP and that families, friends and neighbours will be turned into “foreigners”.

Mr Dolan’s support for Better Together comes despite his own union describing such a move as a “betrayal”.  In June this year, GMB Scotland chief Harry Donaldson rejected calls to join the Tory led campaign, saying: “But to join with the Tories and Lib Dems would be to betray all that we stand for and have campaigned against in this proud union of ours.”

MEANWHILE, claims that a newly independent Scotland would be prevented from completing orders from the Royal Navy have been called into question by the Chief of Defence Staff who has said the Westminster government will “get our ships in the place it makes the most sense”.

Speaking on the BBC Andrew Marr programme today, General Sir Nicholas Houghton said:

“(The decision) was very much a matter of a business rationalisation.  In terms of raw business sense it makes sense the place where they have the greatest capacity and the best depth of skills – which is on the Clyde – so it is driven by a business decision.

“We live in a world now where it is not for the purposes of the defence budget to underwrite elements of industry.  We will go and get our ships in the place where it makes the most sense for the British taxpayer in terms of getting the right capability for the armed forces.”

Commenting, SNP MSP Stewart Maxwell said:

“This intervention holes the scaremongering of the No campaign below the waterline.

“General Sir Nicholas Houghton, the UK Chief of Defence Staff, has made clear that UK ships will be made in the ‘place it makes most sense’.

“The Clyde is the best place for these ships to be built – indeed, with the end of shipbuilding at Portsmouth in 2014, it is the only place in these islands where they can be built – and that will not change after a Yes vote.

“That is because of the investment we’ve seen in these yards, because of the skill mix, and because of the Clyde’s unrivalled experience and value for money.

“It is time for anti-independence politicians to stop peddling myths, when in fact it is under the Westminster system that shipbuilding jobs are being lost.

“The SNP Government will continue to do everything possible, in whatever constitutional circumstance, to support a long and viable future for Scotland’s shipyards – it is time that the anti-independence parties pledged likewise.”