Can we rely on warships order?

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IN YOUR issue of 24 March, 2013, under the heading “Independence ‘would close a Clyde shipyard’”, you quote anonymous sources as saying that the MoD is going to order a fantastic new fleet of warships if we vote No in the referendum.

Only months ago there was still a prospect that the first carrier would be sold to pay for the second, but no buyers were found. Now “sources” suggest money will be found to order two more carriers, and presumably aircraft to fly from them. The sources also promise orders for six more Destroyers, and “the development of the Type 26 frigates”.

It is public knowledge that the Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has been told to accept drastic cuts in his budget, and is straining to defend his present budget. Austerity is to continue well past the date of the next UK general election. Has the Tory Party promised that if they win that election they will find that £17.4 billion for warships?

Jim Murphy quotes this pie-in-the-sky story with glee. Has he, as shadow defence secretary, Mr Miliband’s authority to promise that an incoming Labour government would persist with this “Big Navy” plan – or does he not expect Labour to be in office when the time comes to deliver?

There is a danger that one Clyde yard will close – nothing to do with Scottish independence, but because the MoD has no orders for them. Even the Type 26 frigates pencilled in for 2016 are uncertain.

The MoD should cancel preparations for an unnecessary successor to Trident and use the savings to order some Ocean Patrol Vessels from one Clyde yard, while working to get some civilian orders at the other. It is not a good idea to have all our major shipyards dependent on naval orders from a near-bankrupt UK.

John Smart, Lossiemouth

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