Defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon has hailed the prosperity of the Clyde shipyards and dismissed concerns from the SNP over future orders as ‘miserable’.
The Conservative MP was at the BAE yard in Scotstoun on Friday for the official naming ceremony of HMS Medway, the latest offshore patrol vessel (OPV) to be built in Glasgow.
He said no other UK industry had as much certainty as shipbuilding as he moved to allay concerns over future Navy orders.
While work is already progressing at Govan on new Type 26 frigates, which the UK Government has said will guarantee jobs on the Clyde for at least two decades, it emerged this week that Type31e vessels could be built on the Mersey as BAE announced it was preparing a bid for the contract alongside Cammell Laird of Birkenhead.
Union bosses have said they believed the orders would be coming to Glasgow.
Sir Michael said he has “kept faith” with the Clyde and dismissed union concerns.
“No other industry in Britain has as much certainty as those who work in shipbuilding,” he said.
“There’s 20 years of work guaranteed for the Clyde now and BAE Systems are teaming up with Cammell Laird to bid for the Type 31 as well.
“It will be a powerful bid combining the skills and expertise here with Cammell Laird but there will be other bidders as well, and other yards, but I expect a very strong bid from BAE-Cammell Laird and that means the skills here on the Clyde will be re-employed again.”
Glasgow South MP and SNP defence spokesman Stewart McDonald earlier this week described the Cammell Laird bid as a ‘slap in the face’ for Clyde workers.
“The Tories cannot be trusted on shipbuilding,” McDonald said. “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.”
But speaking to the press at Scotstoun this morning, Sir Michael said: “Don’t worry about the SNP. They’re a miserable lot.”
The defence secretary added there was a “renaissance” in British shipbuilding and added he hopes future Type 31e ships can be built for export.
“The numbers aren’t slipping, there are going to be eight heavy frigates (Type 26) and five general purpose frigates (Type 31e) - that’s 13 replacing the current Type 23s and if British industry can come in at the price that we’ve set, within £250 million per ship, then we can go on and build more.
“We can build a bigger fleet and we’re also hoping, if they get the price right, to export a ship.
“The aim of the light frigate programme is to export a ship new, we’ve not done that since the 1970s.
“We’ve got to get back to that and the skills are here on the Clyde.”
He continued: “I’m very happy to talk to the unions about their concerns.
“Twenty years of guaranteed work is something no other industry has and the Clyde is going to do well out of a growing Navy, building the heavy frigates, part of the carrier and they have every prospect of putting in a strong bid for the light frigate.”