How Scottish industry is hoping for boost to defence spending as Starmer meets Biden at Nato summit

The new Prime Minister has arrived in Washington.

Defence industry leaders in Scotland are hopeful of an increase in government speninding in the sector as Sir Keir Starmer came under pressure on the issue ahead of his first Nato summit.

The Prime Minister arrived in Washington on Wednesday, where he was to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and have his first face-to-face meeting with President Joe Biden.

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However, Sir Keir has refused to guarantee that he will meet his flagship commitment to have defence spending at 2.5 per cent of GDP within his first term in office, despite a “cast iron” promise to get there.

Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer (left)  meeting President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky, for a bilateral meeting at a hotel in Washington DC, US, ahead of the Nato summit.Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer (left)  meeting President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky, for a bilateral meeting at a hotel in Washington DC, US, ahead of the Nato summit.
Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer (left) meeting President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky, for a bilateral meeting at a hotel in Washington DC, US, ahead of the Nato summit.

The Prime Minister is pressing for European nations to increase defence spending.

Ahead of the meeting, ADS, a UK trade association focused on advancing leadership in aerospace, defence, security and space, told The Scotsman that Scotland needed a new comprehensive industrial strategy to provide an attractive investment environment, help to address workforce shortages, a wider trade and export strategy, as well as a boost to exports.

ADS Scotland Director Warrick Malcolm said: “Scotland boasts a thriving advanced manufacturing ecosystem, with particular links to our aerospace and defence sectors.

“The aerospace, space, security and defence sectors, with a turnover of more than £7 billion, contributed £3.2 billion in value add to the Scottish economy in 2022. In 2022, the ADS sectors directly employed 33,500 people in Scotland, including 1,500 apprentices. With £95,000 output per worker, sector productivity in Scotland is 47 per cent higher than the economy average.”

A spokesperson for Thales, a French multinational company that designs, develops and manufactures electrical systems as well as devices and equipment for the aerospace, defence, transportation and security sectors, called for a boost to exports, saying they were hugely important to the industry in Glasgow.They said: “The current uncertain global environment means that the skills and infrastructure that defend our nation is more important than ever and so we welcome the Government’s commitment to defence.

“The Scottish defence industry has a proud legacy of our strong engineering capability and makes a significant contribution to keeping the people of our nation safe. From Thales in Glasgow we are proud to provide equipment for land, sea and air platforms, and so we hope to see that reflected in any new spending decisions.

“Export is also hugely important to our Glasgow operations, and our first ever export from the UK came from our Glasgow site over a century ago. It is our firm view that the Scottish defence industry can be a real supporter of relationships with our Allies across the world, building and deepening our international relationships so we look forward to working with the new Government on that effort”.

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On his flight to the US, the Labour leader was repeatedly pressed on whether the goal of spending 2.5 per cent of GDP would be reached within his first term.

He said: “We are committed to the 2.5 per cent, as I have said before the election and I say again after the election. That is obviously subject to our fiscal rules, but the commitment is there.

“The strategic review will take place, that will happen next week, and we will set out the details of that.”

Before his election defeat, Rishi Sunak had committed to reach 2.5 per cent by 2030 at a total cost of £75 billion over six years.

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