The recent dominance of the Clyde shipbuilding industry in securing warship contracts could be weakened as five Type 31e frigates are on course to be built on the Mersey.
A Glasgow MP described a decision by BAE Systems to partner with Cammell Laird, a firm in Birkenhead, to bid for the £1.25bn MOD order as a ‘slap in the face for the Clyde yards’.
BAE operates two yards in Glasgow, Govan and Scotstoun, which have handled the majority of naval orders over the last two decades.
The latest vessel to be built at the yards, HMS Medway, is due to be named in a ceremony tomorrow.
The company remains confident the city’s shipbuilding industry has a bright future, with separate orders for three Type 26 vessels on the books.
But Stewart McDonald, SNP defence spokesman at Westminster, said the smaller Type 31 frigate should be a ‘key component’ in ensuring Scottish yards had consistent work.
“The Tories cannot be trusted on shipbuilding. We have the skills, the expertise, the infrastructure in Scotland - but what we have also had is years of promises from Westminster - that have been broken. A key component of a steady stream of work for Scottish shipbuilding is this new T31e smaller frigate,” he said.
“The UK government has form on this. They originally boasted that 13 Type 26 frigates would be built on the Clyde. They then slashed that guarantee to eight. It has now dropped to three - with the MoD insisting that the remaining five will be built but that negotiations on those contracts will now not start until the early 2020s.”
Iain Stevenson, managing director of BAE naval ships, told The Times that the agreement with Cammell Laird would allow the companies to bid jointly for the new general purpose frigates, ensuring they were delivered on time and on budget.
BAE staff in Scotland are expected to contribute designs, engineering and armament systems to the Type 31es.
Design work on the three Type 26s began on the Clyde this summer.
The anti-submarine Type 26 “global combat ship” will be built at Govan and Scotstoun, where the defence giant promised to invest in a “frigate factory” three years ago.
The number of vessels in the class was subsequently cut from 13 to eight, and unions had raised the alarm over claims the MoD was seeking to shave hundreds of millions of pounds from the contract.