Joint defence cuts plea published

Annabel Goldie, Iain Gray, Alex Salmond and Tavish Scott
Image caption The government and opposition leaders joined forces to make the defence spending submission to the UK government

The Scottish government and opposition parties have published their case to UK ministers to maintain defence spending.

They argue the defence sector in Scotland accounts for 30,000 jobs and has a turnover of £1.8bn.

The document, backed by the SNP, Labour, the Lib Dems and the Tories, is being submitted to the strategic review currently being undertaken by the MoD.

It sparked fears for the future of two aircraft carriers being built on the Clyde and Forth, as well as RAF bases.

Opposition and union leaders in Scotland are due to meet Defence Secretary Liam Fox before he announces the outcome of the review, in October.

The MoD says no final decisions have been made, but the department is under pressure to cut its £36.9bn annual budget by up to 20%, as the Westminster coalition seeks to reduce the spending deficit.

The joint Scottish submission - which the Greens refused to sign up to - makes the economic case to continue defence spending and raises concern over the loss of skills, should jobs have to be cut.

It states Scotland's defence sector has "considerable strengths and a capability that punches above its weight", and warns: "Many areas of Scotland rely heavily on defence as a core part of their economy and will suffer significantly both economically and socially from any further significant reductions to the defence footprint or cancellations of defence contracts."

The 24-page submission states 12,000 service personnel and 5,900 civilians are employed at Scottish military bases and sites, while 12,600 work in the wider defence industry.

'Short-term view'

It also argues for the retention of the Clyde naval base - despite deep political differences over the renewal of the Trident nuclear deterrent based there.

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, said: "This cross-party submission is of vital importance and sets out a compelling case for safeguarding Scottish jobs and skills."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Tavish Scott, said: "It is important that we continue to work together, adding: "If these skills are lost, Scotland may never regain them. The interests of the UK economy and defence industries will be weakened."

Image caption The carriers are being built on the Clyde and at Rosyth

The Tories' Annabel Goldie said the submission made a "powerful" case, adding: "My concern as a Scottish politician is to ensure the coalition government has the best information we can provide from Scotland about how important Scotland's contribution to the United Kingdom defence industry is."

Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray, said: "It's up to us to make the case as strongly as we can - but it is a powerful case.

"It comes from all the parties in Scotland and it also, importantly, has the voice of the workforce and their trade unions behind it."

But Scottish Green leader Patrick Harvie, a Glasgow list MSP, said the submission took a "seriously short-term view", adding: "The carriers themselves are a mid-20th Century way to project force around the world, not a practical or defensible part of modern peace-keeping, nor are they necessary for this country's protection."

As well as concerns over the £5bn carrier contracts, which Scottish ministers say account for 10,000 jobs, fears have also been raised for the future of air bases at Kinloss and Lossiemouth.

UK armed forces minister Nick Harvey recently said there was no need for "panic mode" regarding the future of the carrier orders.

An MoD spokeswoman said: "The defence secretary is grateful for all the work that has been done on the Scottish cross-party submission.

"It recognises the important contribution that the Scottish people, and defence industry in Scotland in particular, makes to our armed forces.

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