Doubts raised over future of shipyards under independence
DEFENCE experts last night cast serious doubts on claims by the Scottish National Party that shipyards north of the Border would win more work if Scotland became independent.
SNP ministers in the Scottish Executive have joined their Westminster MPs in an effort to counter the claims that yards north of the Border would suffer if Scotland was no longer building for a large, UK navy.
Stewart Maxwell, the communities minister, will today celebrate Scotland's past as a world leader in shipbuilding, attending the opening of the 100-year-old Titan Crane in Clydebank.
The 3 million refurbishment allows viewers to see over the sprawling shipyards that are thriving once again thanks to a recent contract to build two multi-billion pound aircraft carriers.
Mr Maxwell will express his party's support for the announcement this week by Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, that two new aircraft carriers are to be partly built in Scotland at a cost of 3.5 billion.
The contract follows multi-billion pound orders to build and maintain Royal Navy destroyers, which have saved Scottish shipyards from ruin, despite massive global competition.
But despite the brighter outlook, naval analysts yesterday expressed concerns for the future of shipbuilding should the SNP get its way in creating an independent Scotland.
Francis Tusa, the editor of Defence Analysis, said the decision to build sections of the new carriers in Scotland was political to boost Labour's standing north of the Border. "This is going to the glory days of Scottish shipbuilding," he warned. "My view is the future outside the UK is pretty bleak. The Scottish yards should enjoy it now while it lasts."
Mr Tusa, who has carried out extensive research on the economics of defence in an independent Scotland, said the Scottish shipbuilding industry was reliant on being part of the UK.
If Scotland gained independence, he said, the shipyards could be moved at a "relatively low cost" of 10 million to 15 million to where jobs would still gain votes for Westminster.
John Park, a former Rosyth dockyard worker and now Labour MSP, said the Ministry of Defence contracts enabled Scottish shipyards to compete with Asia and eastern Europe.
However, Angus Robertson, the Westminster leader of the SNP, argued that, if anything, the SNP was attracting shipbuilders to Scotland. "I believe the workforce on the Clyde produce the best-quality defence ships."
He said that, if Scotland became independent, more shipbuilding would be generated through having a separate fleet.
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