The Ministry of Defence should look beyond the Clyde for future Royal Navy shipbuilding contracts, according to a review by the industrialist in charge of the UK’s national shipbuilding strategy.
A review published by Sir John Parker has recommended removing BAE Systems’ monopoly on shipbuilding for the Royal Navy.
It was announced earlier this month that the company’s two yards on the Clyde would build eight larger Type 26 frigates. But the contract to build eight smaller general purpose Type 31 frigates has yet to be announced.
Sir John’s report says: “There is no precedent for building two ‘first of class’ RN frigates in one location in the UK. Type 26 is a critical project for the RN and the Nation. Type 31e is urgently required to maintain RN frigate fleet numbers and to establish a UK exportable light frigate. Against this background risks need to be assessed and evaluated in a responsible way by all stakeholders.
“A separate lead shipyard or alliance appears to be the best way forward for Type 31e to minimise overall risk.Regardless of choice, BAES would remain in a position to compete for Type 31e work on combat systems, design support and in block build if capacity is available.”
Rosyth in Fife is also one of six shipyards across the UK currently involved in the £6.2bn BAE project to construct two aircraft carriers for the Royal Navy.
The MoD said defence work and jobs in Glasgow and Rosyth was guaranteed into the 2030s.
Sir John’s review will inform the UK Government’s National Shipbuilding Strategy to be published in the spring.
Speaking on Radio Scotland, Sir John said: “no-one should be afraid of competition”.
He added: “The whole idea is to expand the naval shipbuilding output in the country and also at the same time there has been quite a renaissance in a number of yards around the country that have actually taken part in supplying blocks to the aircraft carriers being built at Rosyth.
“But I think as far as Scotland’s concerned, the big prize - I call it a double first prize - is that my report has recommended that the whole series of Type 26 frigates should be built in Govan on the Clyde.
“This will be the largest single contract for naval ships this decade and will see the yard through into the early 2030s. So this is a huge prize that is going to Scotland.”
Scottish Labour’s Westminster spokesman Ian Murray said: “The confirmation that construction of the new Type 26 frigates will begin on the Clyde next summer secured the future of the yard for the next twenty years. But we want to see the future of the Clyde and its workers safeguarded for much longer than that. The Clyde shipyard is a historic centre of UK shipbuilding and its world class workforce must be protected and maintained.”
SNP defence spokesman Brendan O’Hara said : “It is now confirmed that the shipbuilding strategy will not be published until the ‘spring of next year’, despite repeated guarantees from the Tories that it would be signed, sealed and delivered well before that. Another delay for the industry is completely unacceptable.
‘’The MoD told us the strategy – vital to our shipbuilding industry - would be complete by the autumn statement last week at the latest.
“We are now told it will be spring next year before we can see any firm plans and that means more unnecessary and worrying delays for the workers, families and communities that depend on shipbuilding.”