Scottish independence: Babcock voices Yes vote fears

SHIPBUILDERS and engineering firms have raised their concerns about the impact of independence on their businesses.
The HMS Queen Elizabeth at Babcock's Rosyth Dockyard, Fife, pictured last year. Picture: Jane BarlowThe HMS Queen Elizabeth at Babcock's Rosyth Dockyard, Fife, pictured last year. Picture: Jane Barlow
The HMS Queen Elizabeth at Babcock's Rosyth Dockyard, Fife, pictured last year. Picture: Jane Barlow

Babcock, which runs the Rosyth dockyard, told union members that it foresees “additional risk and uncertainty” if voters back a Yes vote on September 18.

The intervention comes as Scottish Engineering, an industry body representing almost 400 firms, urged its members to reject independence.

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Babcock’s view, made public by the Rosyth Dockyard Industrial Joint Council, includes concerns that it is “unlikely” the dock will be able to carry out Royal Navy work.

It noted the Scottish Government’s plan to remodel Rosyth and Faslane, but said it remains unclear whether workloads will be smaller or greater than now.

The joint council, in a statement to workers, said it shares the company’s concerns.

“As a company with a large footprint in Scotland, the possible changes to Scotland’s financial and regulatory environment following a vote from independence create additional risk and uncertainty for our business,” the statement added.

It is “not clear” if independence will have any impact on the completion of the Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carrier contract.

“There is a possibility that the UK Government could look to move the two carriers to a facility within the rest of the UK, such as Portsmouth, at the earliest opportunity.”

Labour leader Johann Lamont said the message from Rosyth is clear.

“Alex Salmond can’t accuse the workers at Rosyth of bullying. He can’t accuse Babcock of bluster. He can’t accuse the trade unions of bluff,” she said.

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“Not only is Alex Salmond willing to see thousands of financial services jobs be axed, he will now lose thousands of highly skilled defence jobs too. It seems there is no price too high, or too costly, for Alex Salmond to pay for his constitutional obsession.”

A spokesman for Scottish Government minister Keith Brown said: “As set out in Scotland’s Future, we will consider options for reinstating Rosyth as a supporting naval base, operating alongside its current industrial uses.

“That would include the potential for the refitting work currently carried out at the site to continue, and for future work of that type which may be agreed with the Royal Navy and the Scottish Government in support of an independent Scotland’s naval fleet.

“Scottish companies will be able to bid for Ministry of Defence (MoD) contracts that are put out to competitive tender so UK military orders could, and should, still come to Scotland.

“Scotland’s indigenous and global companies have the expertise to win UK and worldwide orders, and Defence Minister Andrew Murrison has already admitted that there is nothing in Article 346 that would prevent the Westminster Government placing contracts exempt from EU procurement rules in Scotland.

“We pledge to support shipbuilding and defence jobs in Scotland regardless of the outcome of the referendum - it is a shame that No campaign politicians seem unable to do likewise.

“Let’s not forget that the number of MoD civilian workers in Scotland has been cut by almost 60% since 2000, meaning that a No vote brings huge uncertainty for the industry.”

Meanwhile, Scottish Engineering revealed its position on independence after a year-long study based on responses from about one-third of its membership.

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Chief executive Bryan Buchan said: “The majority of those responding indicated that, in their opinion, independence would not be in the interests of the manufacturing engineering industry in Scotland.

“Significant minorities said that they sought further clarity, or that the question was solely a matter for politicians and the electorate.

“Very few members expressed outright support for independence.”