The loss of Royal Navy shipbuilding contracts would almost certainly lead to the closure of all of Scotland’s shipyards if the country separated from the United Kingdom, Scottish union leaders have warned. If Scotland became a foreign country, UK warship building, refit and repair work would have to be transferred elsewhere, the House of Commons Scottish Affairs committee heard.
Non-warship contracts, such as the recent MARS tanker ships would be offered to tender worldwide, meaning the future of some 16,000 Scottish shipbuilding jobs would be at risk
Following a meeting with defence minister Peter Luff and junior Scotland Minister David Mundell, the union leaders told the committee that they had been told in no uncertain terms that they would no longer be able to carry out military orders.
“It was made quite clear that we will not, because we will be a foreign country and under article 346 if they were considering placing an order in a foreign country they would have to open up EU-wide and possibly worldwide for that,” said Duncan McPhee, Unite senior shop steward at BAE Systems in Scotstoun.
“The MARS ships – the complex part of that contract, where the in-fill work falls in between the Type 26 and the carrier – that would also fall into that realm as well. So quite clearly there would be no in-fill work and there would be no Type 26 and that, certainly on the Clyde, is our workload because we have no export work.
“Unless an independent Scotland could provide equivalent orders we would be greatly reduced or completely finished as a shipbuilding industry. …There is absolutely no other work on the horizon at the moment.”
“It would be a definite closure scenario.”
Raymond Duguid, Unite’s senior shop steward at Babcock Marine in Rosyth said: “If Scotland was independent, no one in Scotland could bid to build type 26. So that would, yes, decimate it [the industry].
Asked about whether the export models of the Type 26 could sustain shipbuilding, the union leaders warned that the skills base would also have been reduced post-independence, so work was unlikely to return to build the frigates.
Regional secretary at the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions Kenny Jordan said the Scottish Government had yet to provide answers as to the future of shipbuilding jobs.
“We need to hear what they are going to do to replace these contracts because we have heard nothing at all,” he said. “I don’t think they have thought about it at all.”
A Downing Street spokesman, said: “The reality is that in 50 years, Britain hasn’t built a warship outside the UK. That is a fact.
“Distinction has to be made between contracts already in the pipeline and those further down the line. Separation is not just for a five-year term.”