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  By Martin Kelly
 
The anti-independence Better Together campaign is today facing the prospect of one of its key arguments in favour of the Union disintegrating.
 
This weekend it emerged that BAE Systems is facing the prospect of having to close one of three UK yards due to a lack of UK defence contracts after cuts in Government defence spending.

The yards facing closure are the Clyde based Govan and Scotstoun yards and a third based in Portsmouth.

BAE Systems employ 3,500 workers at the Scottish yards and a further 5,000 at the English site.  The firm has said it does not have sufficient work to keep all three sites open and a decision on which site will close is to be made before the end of the year.

The companies Chief Executive Nigel Whitehead said: “We anticipate that there will be a reduction in footprint, and we anticipate… that part of that might actually be the cessation of manufacturing at one of the sites.”

The news is a severe blow to the anti-independence campaign which has consistently claimed that only by remaining in the Union can Scottish shipbuilding jobs be secured.  However the revelation that there are insufficient contracts to sustain the three yards, even without independence, will come as a shock to many workers.

The yard in Portsmouth is widely believed to be the most vulnerable; however closure of one of the Scottish based yards cannot be ruled out.

Labour MP Ian Davidson has claimed that one of the Scottish yards could face closure as a result of possible Scottish independence. 

He said: “Obviously if Scotland were to separate from the United Kingdom, then the terms of business would preclude any orders for the Type 26 being placed on the Clyde.”

However claims that the MoD wouldn't award contracts for military vessels overseas ignore the fact that a South Korean firm has been awarded the contract to build the Navy's next MARS fleet tanker.

In reality, shipbuilders across Europe - including in Scotland - regularly get orders from other countries.  France makes ships for Russia, and the UK has made frigates for Malaysia.

Other commentators have highlighted the political implications of closing one of the Glasgow yards.  BBC Scotland’s Business and Economy Correspondent Douglas Fraser warned that to “cut the workforce and perhaps a yard on the Clyde” would “hand Scottish nationalists a substantial campaigning gift.”

Westminster SNP leader and defence spokesman Angus Robertson said: “While it is dis­appointing that BAE Systems are reportedly considering closing one of their UK shipyards, the Scottish yards go into this pro­cess in a very strong position.

“Just last week leading defence expert Ian Godden highlighted the strength of Scotland’s defence industry because of its industrial and engineering capability.  These strengths must be taken into account by BAE, and hopefully it will help them conclude that there should be no reduction in manufacturing capacity in Scotland.”

Comments  

 
# iggyb 2012-11-26 09:12
I wonder if the types of ships an independant Scotland would require would be more saleable overseas. We seem unable to get an sizeable overseas market for the type of ships the MOD specifies
 
 
# Aplinal 2012-11-26 09:18
Regarding the comment on Scotland's expertise by Angus Robertson, I suspect that there will be massive behind the scenes lobbying from Westminster to ensure that should BAe reduce its 'footprint', that they DO keep Portsmouth open. If not, what will the UK do when Scotland becomes independent. How can BAe win bids for future contracts for rUK without a suitable rUK dock/shipyard?

One of the Scottish site will close.
 
 
# bodun 2012-11-26 13:55
It's hard to escape the echoes of Thatcherism here. Particularly now her philosophy is shared by Labour and LibDem:
bbc.scotlandshire.co.uk/.../...
 
 
# Balefire 2012-11-26 09:22
Previously, Westminster has said that no British Navy Destroyer has ever been built in a foreign country. This was the threat they used to justify withdrawing future build contracts after Independence.
Yet, their entire nuclear arsenal will also sit in a foreign country after a Yes majority in 2014. I think that tends to put things into perspective, don’t you?
 
 
# alasdairmac 2012-11-26 09:43
I predicted it before and I'll do it again now: when BAe gets the contract to build the Type 26s it will sub the hulls out to South Korea and tow them back to the UK for fitting out, just as has happened with the three MARS vessels, and that is work which the Portsmouth or Devonport dockyards could still do as it only needs quayside and a drydock.

.
 
 
# Triangular Ears 2012-11-26 09:46
Unionists bleat on about Scotland's economy being dependent on oil (which it isn't), yet Scotland's shipbuilding industry is now, thanks to the union, wholly dependent on so-called defence spending.

Perhaps if we'd been independent all this time we would still be making the full variety of ships that were once made. Plenty of other small countries such as Norway and Finland have enviable ship-building industries, building vessels of peace, which are exported all round the world.
 
 
# Macart 2012-11-26 09:50
I don't suppose there has been any soundbites from Mr Murphy as yet?

I seem to recall that only independence would damage/destroy what was left of ship building on the Clyde. The silence is deafening.
 
 
# Breeks 2012-11-26 10:00
Scotland should be trying very hard not to lose capacity, because we need all we have if we want to re-industrialise our economy.

I read a while ago that there was a glut in container ships being made in the far East, which probably doesn't help, but imagine if Scotland had a fully integrated economy, where growth in renewables might be linked to the develpment of mobile wind or wave generators which might benefit in turn from Scottish ship building capacity and expertise.
Scotland lost important capacity with Ravenscraig, and it's surely better to exhaust all efforts to diversify capacity rather than lose it permanently. Imagine our country where Scottish Industries talked to each other and structured themselves to compliment each others needs. It surely must be possible to build need for the resources we have without running cap in hand to Westminster.
 
 
# call me dave 2012-11-26 10:00
Hi The Murphy did indeed spout the usual stuff 'A foreign country won't get to build warships for the UK

The Glasgow trade union man sounded quite chipper because the Scotti sh yards were more efficicient and had a better skills base. Even the politial dimension did not seem to phase him, although he did qualify it a little.

I hope he is right but I fear that one yard will go.
 
 
# Old Smokey 2012-11-26 11:01
Murphy even spouted that the 'Royal Navy' doesnt have warships built in foreign yards.
What he and no dount many others seemed to forget is the fact that the current 'Royal Navy' is an asset that Scotland has a share in. In addition, after ending the union with England. Scotland will STILL have a Royal Navy as will England. But unionist creeps like Murray dont want you to think about that
 
 
# Dcanmore 2012-11-26 10:03
If one of the Scottish yards close it will blow then Better Together campaign out of the water (sorry). If it's the Portsmouth yard shuting down then the Tories will get hammered by the right-wing English press. They're in a lose-lose situation especially coming after a disastrous defence review which has already harmed BAE with ships, Harriers and Nimrods scrapped.
 
 
# Clydebuilt 2012-11-26 10:12
If Portsmouth closes that is also a blow for the Unionist camp. As this would be a statement by BAe that they're not phased by the possibility of an independent Scotland.

Aye Dcanmore it's a lose lose situation for the Naw camp, or as some people are calling them Better Yesterday
 
 
# gopher3 2012-11-26 10:13
Sad to say, I think a Scottish yard will be closed, because there is no way they'll shut Portsmouth.
 
 
# rabb 2012-11-26 11:04
Quoting gopher3:
Sad to say, I think a Scottish yard will be closed, because there is no way they'll shut Portsmouth.


I tend to agree with you gopher3. I just cannot see the tory government closing a shipyard in England.
David Cameron may talk about "Fighting to save the union with every fibre", however, the reality is, Scottish independence will undoubtedly lead to a Conservative domination of rUK politics for some time to come. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out where the Conservatives really sit with regards to Scotland. You bet your bottom dollar they will lobby BAe with great gusto to close a Scottish yard.
 
 
# DonaldMhor 2012-11-26 11:19
The MOD have punted the line that no Clyde yard has ever built oilers like that order given to Korea. That is a straight lie.

Mounts Bay and sister ship Cardigan Bay were ordered from BAE on 19 November 2001. Mounts Bay was laid down at BAE's shipyard at Govan, Scotland on 25 August 2002. She was launched on 9 April 2004.

Wave Ruler was built by Kvaerner Govan (after 1999, BAE Systems Marine) and launched in 2001. She was accepted into service in 2003 and is the 2nd ship to bear this name in RFA service. Wave Ruler and her sister Wave Knight, were designed to replace Olna and Olwen, two Ol-class 36,000 ton fast fleet tankers which were built at Swan Hunter and Hawthorn Leslie in the 1960s.

BAE did not tender for these ships as they have a financial interest in Korea. Much of BAEs work in future will be in the far East. Hundreds of students from there go to Glasgow Uni sponsored by them.
 
 
# call me dave 2012-11-26 11:42
Without the net and sites like this the facts would not be told to a wider audience

Vote yes in 2014
 
 
# Silverytay 2012-11-26 12:03
Sorry I dont think that we should be making light of the fact that one of these yards is going to have to close . We should all remember that the people who work there and their families are all going to suffer due to this process . The worst thing about it is that due to this governments austerity measures there is going to be no safety net for these families who are made unemployed . While I appreciate that the unionists are caught between a rock and a hard place off their making on this subject , we must think about the family,s who will suffer whatever yard is shut .
 
 
# Mad Jock McMad 2012-11-26 12:19
According to the Portsmouth News the decision has already been made by BAE - the Portsmouth production yard (Vosper Thornycroft Gosport) is to close as it does not have the infrastructure or capacity to build proposed modern frigates. The yard is only suitable for builds up to Minehunter. The only 'modern' frigates built there were the type 21's which had to have 'light weight' super structures so they could be launched at high tide with out sticking in the mud of Portesham bay. BAE will keep their re-fit and fleet support operation going in Portsmouth Dockyard which is where the majority of jobs are.

What we are seeing here is an end game more targeted at BAE than Scotland, the sitting Tory MP is already waving the 'independence shroud' at the MoD. BAE are on record saying that independence will make no difference on where they build ships in the UK as they will build them where the skills are.
 
 
# Old Smokey 2012-11-26 12:49
The newly independent England then is going to have problems accomadating home grown ship building in the face of commercial demands by shipbuilding companies wanting to utilise what is best for them in terms of expertise and cost. Perhaps Westminster may think of nationalising the English shipyards to ensure English Royal Navy warships are only built in England
 
 
# X_Sticks 2012-11-26 13:01
Will England be able to afford building warships without the Scottish subsidy?
 
 
# Old Smokey 2012-11-26 13:53
Not really, but I'm sure they will find out eventually from their reliable media
 
 
# Indy_Scot 2012-11-26 15:08
Mad Jock, I could not find confirmation of the closure of Portsmouth on the website.

Do you have a link?
 
 
# Mad Jock McMad 2012-11-26 18:44
The story first appeapered in the Daily Echo in February: dailyecho.co.uk/.../?ref=rss

Next up was this: portsmouth.co.uk/.../...

Here's another different source: www.defencemanagement.com/.../

Today's story: www.londonmediaclub.org/.../

July 5/12: No Portsmouth work? Portsmouth’s The News reports that BAE is leaning toward building the Type 26 frigates in Scotland, which could put thousands of local shipbuilding and sub-contractor jobs at risk, once Portsmouth’s sub-contracted work on Britain’s new carriers finishes around 2014. Apparently, the Portsmouth yard would require additional investment, while the Scottish yards would not. (Defence Industry Daily)
 
 
# Indy_Scot 2012-11-26 19:52
Thanks for that Mad Jock. I could not see a firm announcement of the closure, but it does look like Portsmouth might struggle.
 
 
# Zed 2012-11-26 13:12
Murphy goes on about warships not getting built in foreign countries as if it's set in stone and that position can't change.
Times change, circumstances change, get used to it.
 
 
# Jamieson 2012-11-26 15:50
I agree with the Portsmouth newspaper. I am sure BAE has already decided which place(s) should be closed. Announcements like these are always made in advance of the actuality to suss out the lie of the political land and to see if any concessions or subsidies from Government will be available. And I'm sure subsidies or a 'fudge' of some sort will be forthcoming because Westminster cannot afford to upset Scotland OR England. And BAE are well aware of that fact.
 
 
# mackdee 2012-11-26 15:57
Im fairly and sadly sure it will be a Glasgow unit. This is gonna be a defining moment in Alex Salmonds political career regardless of what bae decide upon.
It may be a private company but politics is going to play a huge part in this.
On one hand closing Portsmouth would completely diminish the Unionist myth that rUK wouldnt commission warships from a foreign country because they would have to, but on the other hand the closure of a Glasgow unit would be a big bastard nail in the better together campaigns coffin.
Its possible to put a positive view on either outcome regarding the independence debate but not if you are one of the many skilled tradesmen currently fearful for their jobs at the moment.
 
 
# rabb 2012-11-26 17:20
Silvertay

100% agreed. The emphasis should be on the families who are about to lose their livelihood. This is a blow to the unionist campaign whatever the outcome but families will suffer as a result. I think everything should be done to safeguard the jobs regardless of what side of the fence we sit on.
 
 
# sid 2012-11-26 18:07
Not their finest moment on Newsdrive tonight not only was the shadow defence minister shown up for what he is, not once but twice from different people also total failure of the spin dept to show that the vote in Catalonia was nothing but a disaster for the independista's

sid ps thought the guy from portsmouth was excellent you could hear the sharp intake of preath in pathetic quay
 
 
# Edulis 2012-11-26 18:34
Murph, Davidson and the rest of Scotlab will be cranking the gears to develop their spin on this. They will blame the Yes Campaign and that big baddie Alec Salmond for the mearest threat of Independence. So our side have to be ready wi9th a suitable riposte. If it is indeed a Clyde yard then the whole barrowload from Lossie to Leuchars, to scrap subs at Rosyth, to Dundrennan, to Cape Wrath to Macrahanish should be brought to bear.
 
 
# sneckedagain 2012-11-26 18:54
Surely they will "save" a Scottish yard and pronounce it a union dividend.
 
 
# bipod 2012-11-26 22:12
If one of the yards is closed I am sure it will be blamed on the "uncertainty" caused by the referendum.
 

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