New ‘frigate factory’ on Clyde is latest referendum battleground

BAE Systems have announced plans to build Type 26 frigates on the Clyde. Picture: Contributed
BAE Systems have announced plans to build Type 26 frigates on the Clyde. Picture: Contributed
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TRADE union leaders have warned that the possibility of independence casts uncertainty over plans for a £200 million “frigate factory” on the Clyde announced by the BAE Systems shipbuilding company 

BAE Systems released details of two new potential investment options to build Type-26 frigates on the Clyde.

The plans were welcomed across Scotland’s political parties, but sparked differing views on how the referendum would affect BAE System’s proposals.

The SNP argued that the substantial investment exposed the “hypocrisy” of the No campaign’s “scaremongering” based on fears that the threat of constitutional change would harm shipbuilding on the Clyde.

However, trade unions argued that, after independence, the UK government would be reluctant to place Ministry of Defence orders with a “foreign” country.

BAE Systems announced two options for the Clyde shipyards.

The first option, a single site strategy, involves building a new state of the art manufacturing 
facility at Scotstoun, while the second option, a two-site strategy, involves expanding and improving existing facilities at Govan and Scotstoun.

The possibility that the Govan yard might be a casualty of the first option was criticised by the Deputy First Minister and Glasgow Southside MSP Nicola Sturgeon.

Ms Sturgeon said: “I welcome BAE’s strong commitment to the Clyde – which stands in stark contrast to the No campaign’s scaremongering – but I am concerned that Govan’s future seems less than secure.

“It is ironic that we have Labour leafleting in Govan with a message that says ‘Separation shuts shipyards’ and ‘Vote No to save Govan’, at the same time as a plan is being developed that would see it close under the Westminster system. Their ill-judged scaremongering has totally boomeranged on them.”

She added: “This news must end the anti-independence scaremongering on shipbuilding once and for all. It is not independence that threatens shipbuilding – it is clear that the Clyde is the only place for Type- 26s to be built. But it is a Westminster government that may be set to preside over the closure of one of the Clyde’s yards.”

GMB Scotland’s Jim Moohan, chairman of the shipbuilding and engineering unions in Scotland, welcomed the investment but added that the “only cloud of uncertainty” was caused by 

“I would question whether the UK government would give a contract worth £13 billion to a foreign country,” Mr Moohan said.

BAE Systems business and transformation director Charlie Blackmore favours the business model that would see the Type-26 frigates built under a single roof at Scotstoun.

Last night, Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont said: “We know that the potential loss of shipbuilding on the Govan site would be a sad day for an industry which has been battling decline for many years and a community which is proud of its shipbuilding past, bringing to a close a chapter in Scotland’s industrial history.

“If this happens, the challenge would be to secure future opportunities on the Govan site.”