Opponents clash over Trident job numbers at Faslane

Helensburgh has long been the frontline in a campaign pitching anti-nuclear protestors against civilian defence staff.

HMS Vigilant, one of the UKs four nuclear warhead-carrying submarines, at HM Naval Base Clyde - a short distance from Helensburgh. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

The town in Argyll and Bute is just six miles from HMNB Clyde, the naval base commonly known as Faslane, home to the UK’s nuclear deterrent.

As a result, the district regularly hosts those arguing for and against the replacement of the Trident weapons system.

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This weekend, members of the local branch of Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) will hear from speakers from across the country. The theme of Saturday’s event is “Life after Trident” and the message is simple - communities along the Clyde can prosper if the weapons system is removed.

The entrance to HM Naval Base Clyde at Faslane. Picture: Robert Perry/TSPL

But union officials argue in turn thousands of highly-skilled defence jobs rely on Faslane and its sister base at Coulport, and that any downgrade in their capabilities would have a devastating impact on the local economy.

GMB Scotland, which represents the majority of civilian staff at Faslane, asked the Fraser of Allander Institute (FAI) at the University of Strathclyde to assess the economic impact of the defence sector on the Scottish economy.

It found the MOD employed 4,700 people in Argyll and Bute - 34 per cent of the total number of local jobs, and the highest concentration in Scotland.

A 2014 Freedom of Information request found a total of 2,250 non-military employees worked at Faslane, with the FAI estimating the base in turn supports a total of 4,911 jobs across Scotland.

The entrance to HM Naval Base Clyde at Faslane. Picture: Robert Perry/TSPL

Local CND members claim the negatives of Trident far outweigh the positives, and that its removal would be “the making” of the area.

“It is argued the removal of Trident from Faslane would be gravely detrimental to the local economy and to the wellbeing of surrounding local communities,” the group said in a statement posted online.

“This is a message of stagnation and despair, calculated to frighten people into accepting the presence of weapons of mass destruction on their very doorsteps.”

Saturday’s conference will argue Trident’s removal would create jobs by the “necessary decommissioning and decontamination”, as well as “freeing up the Clyde estuary for alternative use”.

GMB Scotland Organiser Gary Cook said: “The big problem with the CND’s arguments is that after generations of debate, they still have not been able to make a single credible case for the diversification of the jobs supported by Trident.

“It’s no wonder that workers across our defence sector view the CND’s call for ‘defence diversification’ as a red herring for throwing their livelihoods and working-class communities under the bus.

“Whether you agree or disagree with Trident, and polls show it splits the country down the middle, it supports 2,250 civilian jobs alone at Faslane and Coulport and it makes a massive contribution to the Argyll and Bute and West Dunbartonshire economies.

“Trident also supports jobs across the wider defence sector as hundreds of workers at BAE systems on the Upper Clyde will soon transfer their skills to Barrow in Furness to help build the Dreadnought submarines, while waiting for the Type-26 frigates to come online.

“These are facts of the matter and those who claim that thousands of jobs, incomes, pensions, skills and opportunities could be replicated elsewhere in the Scottish or UK economies are simply being dishonest.”

Meanwhile, despite opposition from the Scottish Government, Trident’s replacement - at a cost of £167 billion - has already been backed by a majority of MPs.