THE Defence Secretary has confirmed the UK’s new warships will be built on the Clyde after fears the contract could go abroad.
Michael Fallon said there should be “no confusion” over where the work on the new generation of Type 26 frigates will be carried out.
He made the commitment on his first visit to Scotland after controversial remarks from First Sea Lord Admiral Sir George Zambellas, the head of the Royal Navy, suggesting the £4 billion contract for the ships could be awarded outwith the UK.
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Defence contracts were a key issue in the run-up to September’s independence referendum, with pro-union politicians claiming Scotland’s shipbuilding industry would automatically be precluded from MoD deals in future if it left the UK.
The SNP seized on the First Sea Lord’s comments to claim voters in the referendum had been betrayed.
Mr Fallon denied that was the case on a visit to see progress on the building of the Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers at Rosyth Dockyard in Fife.
He said: “British warships are built in British yards. This aircraft carrier has been built across six British yards in England and in Scotland. So far as the T-26 ships are concerned, it has always been envisaged that they will be built on the Clyde and I can confirm that today.
“It’s a very complex new warship that’s under design at the moment. We’re obviously working towards announcing some of the long-lead items I hope early next year.
“We’re not quite ready yet to announce it, but they are going to be built on the Clyde.”
The Defence Secretary’s visit came a day after a large protest against Trident at Faslane naval base, but Mr Fallon denied it was time for a rethink on the UK’s nuclear weapons system.
He said: “The nuclear deterrent keeps all of us safe in England, in Scotland, in Wales and Northern Ireland.
“We have the main decision to take in 2016 to renew Trident so that is a decision for the next Parliament, but successive governments have always reaffirmed their commitment to the nuclear deterrent and I’m in no doubt the next Parliament and the next government will do that too.”
Mr Fallon, who received a tour of HMS Queen Elizabeth and an update on the progress on it and a second carrier, said both are on schedule.
He added: “This has been a huge investment in jobs in Scotland, not just at Rosyth but on the Clyde, where some of the bigger blocks were built, and that investment will continue.”
Last month it was announced that two of the Royal Navy’s Trafalgar Class submarines are being moved to the Clyde naval base from their current site in Plymouth.
HMS Talent and HMS Triumph will be at the Faslane base by 2020.
The move means the Scottish base will be home to all of the UK’s submarines, in another step towards Clyde becoming the Royal Navy’s Submarine Centre of Specialisation.
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