FMQs: Nicola Sturgeon told independence movement 'sinking' as she says Scotland would win shipbuilding contracts even if outside the Union

Nicola Sturgeon has declared Scotland would win major shipbuilding contracts even if it became an independent country, as she was told the independence movement was “sinking”.

It was announced on Tuesday by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak that five more British warships would be built on the Clyde, in response to the global instability caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Defence manufacturer BAE Systems has been awarded a £4.2 billion contract to build five more Type 26 frigates for the Royal Navy, on top of the three already under construction.

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Scottish Tories leader Douglas Ross used the announcement to attack Ms Sturgeon at First Minister’s Questions, asking her whether she would welcome the announcement.

Nicola Sturgeon speaks at First Minister's Questions. Picture: Scottish Parliament TV

Mr Ross claimed investment in the industry on that scale would not be possible if Scotland left the UK, as he declared: “Who should the public trust on the economics of ship building?

"A First Minister who can’t build a single ferry for £250 million, or a defence expert who’s advised the United Nations? Of course, the First Minister has to deny facts because the independence movement is sinking, it’s absolutely sinking.

"She is up separation creek without a paddle. We know there wouldn’t be any major ships built if she got her way, because look at her own appalling record on failing to build essential ferries for Scotland’s island communities.”

The Glen Sannox and the as-yet-unnamed hull 802 are expected to be completed by Ferguson Marine next year, but at a cost some two-and-a-half times the initial £97 million.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Quoting economist Professor Keith Hartley, Mr Ross said: “I don’t see a future for a Scottish warship building industry in an independent Scotland.”

Ms Sturgeon defied the comments, saying: “An independent Scotland, like independent countries all over the world … as a full member of Nato would have naval capabilities of its own.

“Capabilities that can and would be served and improved upon by our world-class shipbuilding industry and expertise. The difference between me and Douglas Ross is I have confidence in our industry in all circumstances – he clearly doesn’t.”

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The First Minister added: “I do believe that the expertise and the skills of our shipbuilders on the River Clyde are world class, and I believe they would compete successfully for work across the world regardless of the constitutional future of Scotland.”

The Supreme Court has confirmed it will hand down its judgement on Wednesday next week on whether the Scottish Parliament has the power to hold an independence referendum. The Scottish Government want to hold the referendum on October 19 next year.

The case was referred to the Supreme Court by the Lord Advocate, Scotland’s most senior law officer, earlier this year. It is intended to bring legal clarity to the question of whether Holyrood can legislate to hold a referendum without the consent of Westminster.

Ms Sturgeon said: “If Douglas Ross wants to have a debate about the benefits, or as he would see it otherwise, of independence, then I really welcome that. Let’s have that debate and then let’s let the people of Scotland decide the outcome in a referendum.”

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