Claims BAE cuts 'politically motivated' to favour Scots

BAE Portsmouth yard BAE is to end shipbuilding at its Portsmouth yard and cut 940 staff posts

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Some political figures in England have claimed the BAE job losses have been politically weighted to favour Scotland ahead of the independence referendum.

BAE is to cut 940 staff posts and end shipbuilding at Portsmouth. Another 835 jobs will go in Glasgow, Rosyth in Fife, and Filton, near Bristol.

Conservative MP Caroline Dineage said she believed English jobs were being sacrificed for Scottish ones.

Glasgow MP John Robertson said Scotland was not given preferential treatment.

The future of BAE's two shipyards on the River Clyde in Glasgow, at Govan and Scotstoun, and the Babcock-owned Rosyth yard in Fife, has been an enduring source of debate in the run-up to next year's referendum on Scottish independence.

Those in the Yes campaign say the yards would have a bright future in an independent Scotland.

'Devastating news'

The Better Together campaign, which opposes independence, argues their futures would be less certain without Ministry of Defence commissioned contracts for the Royal Navy.

Following BAE's decision to end shipbuilding at Portsmouth and cut 940 staff jobs, along with 170 agency workers, some politicians have claimed that the English yard has lost out to ones in Scotland for political reasons.

Start Quote

The remaining yards with the capability to build advanced warships are in Scotland, and the referendum on Scottish independence is less than one year away”

End Quote Gerald Vernon-Jackson Portsmouth City Council

The Ms Dineage, the Conservative member for Gosport, told the BBC's World at One programme that BAE job losses in Portsmouth were "devastating news for families across the region".

Asked whether she thought English jobs were being sacrificed for Scottish ones, she replied: "Yes, definitely."

The independent MP for Portsmouth MP, Mike Hancock, said it was clear the referendum on Scottish independence had influenced the BAE decision and that was unfair on his constituents.

He said: "Alex Salmond (Scotland's first minister) was on a no lose situation.

"He would benefit if they closed the yard saying they're being punished. If they keep the yards open he'll say you're being bribed, so from that point of view, he's in a no lose situation.

"But I think the people of Portsmouth are going to be paying a very heavy price for I think a slightly cynical manoeuvre."

Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of Portsmouth City Council, also drew parallels between the BAE announcement and the independence referendum.

Scottish jobs

"The remaining yards with the capability to build advanced warships are in Scotland, and the referendum on Scottish independence is less than one year away," he said.

"Ministers have put the defence of the UK and the future of the Navy at real risk."

Portsmouth Conservative Councillor Alistair Thompson said: "Many of those who I represent as a councillor are hugely concerned that this decision has been taken for political reasons because of the referendum in Scotland next year."

But politicians in Scotland have pointed out that more than 800 job cuts are being made north of the border, and workers there are sharing the pain.

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A senior defence industry figure has told the BBC that as long as two years ago BAE Systems recommended to government that shipbuilding at Portsmouth should end”

End Quote John Moylan BBC's industry correspondent

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the Clyde yards at Govan and Scotstoun, as well as the Scottish economy, had been dealt "a devastating blow".

She added: "The Clyde is the best place to build these ships - no disrespect at all to Portsmouth, I feel heart sorry for people in Portsmouth affected, just as the people in the Clyde are affected by job losses.

"But the investment that we've seen in the Clyde yards in recent years, the skill mix of the workers in the Clyde, make the Clyde the best place to build these ships - there's no doubt about that."

The Labour MP for Glasgow North West, John Robertson, rejected any suggestion that Scottish workers were being given preferential treatment but admitted political factors were a concern.

He said: "We like to think we're the best in the world. I know from the ships we have built - particularly the type 45s - and how well they're thought of throughout the world by other navies, as being the best of the best.

"So, in that respect, I think it's probably gone to the right place.

"Having said that, there is a fear of course, come a referendum, if Scotland was to go independent, what would happen. So there is still that question mark."

Sun sets at Govan shipyard in Glasgow Shipbuilding is to continue at BAE's two Glasgow yards but more than 800 jobs will be lost

The BBC's industry correspondent, John Moylan, said the possibility of ending shipbuilding at Portsmouth had been discussed for some time.

He said: "A senior defence industry figure has told the BBC that as long as two years ago BAE Systems recommended to government that shipbuilding at Portsmouth should end.

"He said that 'this is not about Scotland and independence - closing shipbuilding at Portsmouth is the sensible strategic decision for the long term'."

Meanwhile, a senior coalition figure told the BBC that suggestions the Portsmouth shipbuilding closure was linked to the independence referendum were "rubbish."

He said it was clear as far back as the Strategic Defence Review in autumn 2010 that Govan and Scotstoun were best placed to remain as the UK's shipbuilding yards - and that was months before the Scottish independence referendum was a realistic prospect.

The source admitted, however, that the "political calculus had hardened" because of the referendum.

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