Hundreds of Scottish shipbuilding jobs have been “safeguarded” after the Ministry of Defence today announced a new contract worth £348 million.
Three Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV) for the Royal Navy will be built on the Clyde, helping secure more than 800 jobs, the UK Government has revealed.
Michael Fallon, the defence secretary, hinted the investment was conditional on Scots rejecting independence, saying: “UK warships are only built in UK shipyards.”
Philip Hammond, Mr Fallon's predecessor, also previously also made clear British warships would not be built oversees, meaning Scotland could lose hundreds of millions of pounds worth of shipbuilding contracts if it goes independent.
A spokesman for Keith Brown, Scotland's minister veteran affairs, claimed the UK Government had already announced the contracts last November and argued independence would be “best” for the industry.
Scottish shipbuilding has become a key battleground in the independence debate, with both sides clashing over whether the industry's best interests would be best served in or out of the Union.
The pro-UK side has pointed to the importance of Royal Navy contracts to Scottish naval bases, while the pro-independence campaign has said a Yes vote would overturn decades of decline under Westminster.
The three vessels to be built at BAE Systems’ shipyards are used by the Royal Navy for missions in British and international waters.
The contract is a vital stopgap for the Clyde yards after the completion of the two new Royal Navy aircraft carriers. BAE's Scotstoun and Govan yards have also been chosen to build the Type 26 Global Combat ships after next month's referendum.
However, Alistair Carmichael, the Scottish Secretary, has told MPs it would be “difficult to see how the work would go to Scotland” if it left the UK.
Mr Fallon said: “This multi-million pound contract shows our commitment to investing in new ships for the Royal Navy and maintaining in the UK the expertise needed to build the warships of the future. It will benefit the dedicated workers of the Clyde, their families and the local economy in Glasgow.”
“This sort of investment by the UK Government is vital for the sustainment of shipbuilding in the city and the hundreds of specialist manufacturing and engineering roles that play an important role in providing war fighting capability for the Royal Navy.”
Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, welcomed the contract ahead of today's trip to the BAE Systems site alongside Philip Dunne, defence equipment minister.
“I am delighted that we will be building the Royal Navy’s new Offshore Patrol Vessels in Glasgow,” Mr Alexander said.
“Today’s announcement continues over 200 years of tradition building the nation’s leading ships on the Clyde. This will also support hundreds of jobs in the region and make an important contribution to the wider UK economy.”
A spokesperson for Mr Brown said while all work for Clyde shipyards was “very welcome” the “re-announcement” did not change the “fact that independence offers the best future for the industry”.
“With the proposed closure of the naval shipbuilding yard at Portsmouth, Scottish yards will soon be the only place on these shores where work on vessels like the Type 26 can realistically be done,” he said.
“If Westminster is willing to work with Australia on design work for the Type 26 ships – and to place an order worth almost half a billion pounds to South Korea for military tankers – it is even more straightforward to build naval vessels in the Clyde yards, which offers the best quality and value for money.”