Scotland politics

Scottish independence: 'Yes' vote means loss of shipbuilding jobs, says Lamont

Govan shipyard
Image caption Govan shipyard is one BAE Systems' shipbuilding sites on the Clyde

A vote for independence could lead to the loss of thousands of shipbuilding jobs, Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont has said.

Ms Lamont claimed it was "inconceivable" that UK defence contracts would be offered to Scotland if it left the UK.

SNP MP Angus Robertson said the Clyde was "the best place to build the new generation of naval ships".

He added that thousands of jobs had gone under successive UK governments.

Ms Lamont met trade union representatives on the Clyde as her party launched a campaign focusing on the impact of independence on the shipbuilding industry, ahead of September's referendum on independence.

"There is a danger that if we vote 'Yes' in September we won't have a shipbuilding industry any longer, because we're reliant on these defence contracts," she said.

"These jobs are at risk if we vote 'Yes', people need to understand that, but for the SNP clearly that's a price worth paying."


Ms Lamont argued it was "inconceivable contracts for defence work will be let outside the United Kingdom" to an independent Scotland.

"I know from speaking to the workforce that they believe the only threat to Scotland securing these defence contracts and many years' work for our shipyards is a 'Yes' vote, and the expectation is that this work will be moved to England if we vote to leave the UK."

Duncan McPhee, Unite union convener at the BAE Scotstoun yard on the Clyde, said the Ministry of Defence was the yard's main customer and it was earmarked to build the new type 26 combat ships for the Royal Navy.

"The Ministry of Defence will not build a complex warship outside of the UK," he argued.

"Unless the Scottish government could replace that work, our industry would be decimated if Scotland became independent."

Earlier this month, union representatives from five firms asked for assurances on future investment from both the UK and Scottish governments.

In February, defence contractor BAE Systems said it was considering the closure of Govan shipyard in favour of an upgrade of facilities at its Scotstoun site.

'Decimated' industry

Mr Robertson, the SNP's defence spokesman at Westminster, said: "This is an industry that in the last 30 years has lost thousands of jobs and been decimated by Westminster government after Westminster government.

"The Clyde has been, is now, and will in the future be the best place to build the new generation of naval ships, and that is coming direct from senior directors at BAE Systems.

"Recently, the head of the BAE type 26 programme, Geoff Searle, said that the company was only looking at a 'single site' solution to build the next generation of warships, and that all of their planning is 'based on the assumption that we will build at the revamped Scotstoun facility' on the Clyde - and that there is 'no plan B' for the build of type 26 elsewhere in the United Kingdom if there is a 'Yes' vote."

He added: "The UK track record on defence in Scotland is appalling, with a multi-billion-pound defence underspend and the loss of more than 11,000 jobs in the last decade.

"With a 'Yes' vote in September we can start to have a defence policy that meets the needs of Scotland."

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